Should the City Consider Outsourcing Jobs As a Means to Cut $5.1 Million Deficit?

outsourcingAn editorial today in the Enterprise argues, “Rising labor costs are unsustainable” and “Without a large tax increase or steep cuts in parks, police and fire, the Davis general fund is headed toward bankruptcy. New revenues coming in cannot keep up with higher and higher labor costs.”

However, the Vanguard disagrees with much of the premise.  The city is not likely to be headed toward bankruptcy, a point that was made repeatedly in the fact-finding reports.  Most communities facing bankruptcy are ridden with huge amounts of debt; the city of Davis, while it deferred maintenance, has largely avoided huge debt.

While daunting, the city’s current deficit can be dealt with through a combination of further cuts and tax measures.

“The numbers are projected to only get worse in the years ahead. The general fund will be negative $28.4 million at the end of 2018-19,” the editorial writes.  “Before the residents of Davis are asked to raise their taxes in order to stave off a catastrophe, the city should consider all options to stem the growth of employee compensation.”

The paper goes on to recommend for the council “to direct the city manager to produce a comprehensive outsourcing report before it contemplates any tax hikes on Feb. 11.”

However, a comprehensive outsourcing report produced in a week is not likely to produce any insight.  Over the last two years, the city manager has worked hard on restructuring and reorganizing City Hall.  Those efforts produced several million in additional cost cuts, plus ultimately a new collective bargaining contract and impositions that are expected to save the city about $5.8 million by the end of the contract.

There are political considerations, as well.  The city has already reduced its work force to a 20-year low, decreasing it by 100 full time equivalent employees. Further reductions would mean laying off employees, something that council and the city manager have only done very sparingly – for instance, when DCEA refused to renegotiate following the overturning of the 2010 imposed contract.  A majority on council, maybe even the entirety of council, has already said they lack the stomach for additional cuts and are looking at a revenue-based solution.

Time is of the essence, as the council must act on a tax measure at next week’s council meeting or face the prospect of forgoing a sales tax measure, which would be approved by a simple majority.  As we have noted, barring a declaration of fiscal emergency, the city cannot put a sales tax measure on the ballot except for the one which elects the city council.

Neither the city manager nor city attorney believe that the city qualifies for a fiscal emergency, which is a step just short of declaring bankruptcy.

While the Enterprise offers an idea in terms of outsourcing, it should be considered as a secondary means to close the budget gap.

They argue, “Every city function that can be outsourced needs to be identified. The council needs to know how much money the city could save by privatizing various services each year for the next five years. And then the council needs to decide the best way to proceed.

“Since the 1990s, Davis has had a highly successful outsourcing program with park and greenbelt maintenance. Roughly half of that function citywide is done by private contractors.

“The private landscaping crews are paid as well as city workers doing the same jobs. However, the contract employees don’t come with outlandish pensions or unending retiree medical expenses.

“In July 2012, the city privatized its tree maintenance services. Outsourcing that function has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the contractor, West Coast Arborists, does a better job. Now, city trees are being pruned more often for less money.”

The Enterprise is correct at identifying why labor costs have risen so high, “In addition to high salaries, overtime and excessive amounts of paid time off, the price of medical plans for employees and retirees has been rising at an astronomical rate for more than a decade.”

“Over the past six years the cost of funding workers’ pensions has blown up, and through 2020 these problems will get much worse,” the editorial continues.  “From 2002 to 2014, medical expenses for the city of Davis increased an average of 10.3 percent per year compounded. The Kaiser Family Plan is now 3.2 times as costly per month as it was 12 years ago.”

The paper notes, “The agreed-upon reduction of medical cash-outs will save the city some money moving forward for employees without spouses and dependents on their plans. That won’t, however, affect the ballooning problem of retiree medical costs.”

“In 2009-10, CalPERS charged Davis 12.542 percent of a non-safety employee’s salary to fund the employer share of his pension. That bill this year is 21.128 percent. CalPERS projects it will be 32 percent in 2019-20. That means for a $100,000 clerk, the city will owe another $32,000 per year to fund his pension,” the editorial continues.  “For police and fire, the story is worse. In 2009-10, CalPERS charged Davis 22.755 percent of a safety employee’s salary to fund the employer share of his pension. That bill this year is 27.832 percent. CalPERS projects it will be 55 percent in 2019-20. For a $100,000-per-year cop, the city will owe $55,000 more to fund his pension.”

The city manager projects in his latest budget that employee wages and benefits will come to $2.3 million of the $5.1 million in the deficit.  That includes $1 million in wage increase including a 2% COLA increase.  Benefits come to $1.2 million with retiree medical at $180,000, PERS at $437,000, leave benefit at $305,000 and medical insurance at $321,000.

While that is a big hit, the bigger hit figures to come from the fact that, from 2008 to 2012, the city balanced its budget by deferring maintenance on roads and parks, it delayed maintenance on water lines, and there are unknown other infrastructure costs.

Outsourcing labor at this time figures to further undermine employee morale, create large numbers of layoffs, and probably not save the city as much money as we might hope.  The city is trying to hold the line on retiree medical bringing down OPEB’s percentage of the payroll to 17.75%, but even that is still putting most of that to existing retirees that would not be touched by outsourcing.

PERS remains a problem, but the city has been systematically moving a greater percentage of those costs back to the employees.

Last year, both Mayor Krovoza and City Manager Steve Pinkerton expressed concerns about the retiree health care system, arguing that they do not believe it is solvent in the long term.

But mass outsourcing is likely not the answer and more likely to trigger backlash from the public.  The city is better served here using this as a backup option and continuing to work in future MOUs to make pay and benefits sustainable in the long term.

“If Davis does not consider more affordable ways to provide services, but instead raises taxes on all of us to avert a calamity, it will be asking a lot of residents who don’t have such luxurious pensions or gold-plated medical plans to get by with less. Is that fair?” the Enterprise asks.

In our view, the voters of Davis were sleeping for about a decade as the pay and benefits were pushed out of balance.  The result is that, for the last seven years, we have asked city staff to take on more tasks with fewer employees and less pay.

The public shares in the blame here and, at this point, a small tax increase on sales seems to be a very reasonable short-term fix.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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147 Comments

  1. growth issue

    David, did you read the 3 letters to the editor this morning? It looks like the residents are wondering how the city can be asking for more taxes and at the same time pouring $1 million into a pie-in-the-sky POU (not my words, from a letter writer)? It’s a little late, but the populace is finally catching on. I say outsource if they can. The tree cutting and park maintenance crews have been doing a great job.

    1. David Greenwald

      Clearly the city has a problem with how the POU has been painted because its not pie in the sky, the funding was very carefully put together, and it’s not $1 million as I explained yesterday. I don’t see how you can outsource for $5.1 million in savings and they have a February 11 deadline. You may be right that this is going to go down, but I don’t think they have many options.

    2. Matt Williams

      G.I., lets compare the heartfelt sentiment that is in those three letters (also expressed here in the Vanguard by you and Frankly and Mark West) with the results of the 2006 vote in which 63% of the voters (13,973 out of a total of 22,135) said that they would prefer leaving PG&E. What has changed between 2006 and 2014?

      1. Mark West

        Matt: I voted to move to SMUD in 2006 and I have a high degree of hatred for all things P.G.& E. That said, spending a $1 Million on spec, when we are facing years of mounting deficits, is bad public relations at best. Doing so while presenting (proclaiming!) theoretical savings as if they were already guaranteed, is completely foolish.

        This City has not demonstrated the ability to provide services in a cost-effective manner. In fact, what we are really good at is providing services at an extremely high cost due to our failure to control compensation costs and the complete failure to maintain the infrastructure that we already own.

        Why would anyone believe that we would operate the POU in a manner different from the way we have operated our roads? Buildings? Pools? Parks?

        1. Matt Williams

          You raise good questions Mark. To start with, my currently preferred alternative is to outsource the operations to SMUD. That would mean that the POU would only have a part-time actuary in order to calculate rates, and a finance/billing department to keep track of the books.

      2. growth issue

        Big difference Matt, that vote was about leaving PG&E and going over to SMUD which btw I voted yes for. It wasn’t about our city using $1 million exploring whether we wanted to take over PG&E’s facilities and having the city run the operations. Plus SMUD would’ve run the utility like a business, getting the best mix of fuels to keep prices down. With the city running it who knows what the local liberals would force the city to do as far as making them purchase green energy. We can be made all kinds of promises now, but imo down the road I think many of us know how it would all play out.

        1. Matt Williams

          I understand G.I. perhaps you can see the method to my madness in suggesting that the POU outsource all its operations to SMUD. You would have one employee in the POU … the billing/accounting clerk. The utility would be run like a business, getting the best mix of fuels to keep prices down. The choice of who to outsource to would be based on their organization’s history and expertise.

          Take your blinders off. I know that deep down inside you are a creative person with a good brain.

  2. Tia Will

    “it will be asking a lot of residents who don’t have such luxurious pensions or gold-plated medical plans to get by with less. Is that fair?” the Enterprise asks.

    I think the Enterprise is asking the wrong question. They ask “is that fair?”.

    First question, fair to whom? The current pension plan would certainly seem “fair” to those who were offered it as part of their compensation package. It probably also seems reasonable , if not “fair”to some of us who have benefited from professions that provide “luxurious” pennons plans and medical benefits. It probably would seem “more fair” to those not at the top of the compensation scale who could stand to lose their jobs with outsourcing.

    If “fairness” is the goal, then the Enterprise should get behind the concept of every contributing citizen receiving the same amount of compensation for the same amount of time worked which would certainly be “fair” but not very feasible given the way our society is currently organized.

    We will never find a solution that is perceived as “fair” by whomever perceives that they will be losing out.
    I believe that the question that should be asked is what is most reasonable given our current circumstances and
    constraints.

    1. SouthofDavis

      Tia wrote:

      > If “fairness” is the goal, then the Enterprise should get behind the concept
      > of every contributing citizen receiving the same amount of compensation for
      > the same amount of time worked which would certainly be “fair” but not
      > very feasible given the way our society is currently organized.

      With the exception of government (and crony capitalism in the private sector) the person that does the job for the lowest price gets the business or the job.

      If there were 1,000+ qualified MDs lining up for work every time there was one opening at Kaiser do you think that ALL the MD would be getting a 30%+ raise (like the Davis firefighters got a few years back)?

      1. Tia Will

        SouthofDavis

        I don’t think this works quite as simply as you seem to feel it does.
        I am not so numerically challenged as to confuse 10 + with 1000 +, but I can tell you that more than a few departments are continuing to increase salary while having more than 10 qualified applicant MDs per position. That graph comparing number of qualified applicants with lower salaries is not linear in either the private nor public sectors.

  3. Tia Will

    Please forgive the question if it has already been answered in this form.

    Would someone better with numbers than I please post the estimate of how long it would be in years at the projected 20% in cost savings, before the city recouped the amount of money spent in converting from PG&E to a POU ? Matt ? David ?

    Now some of you are probably thinking that this is the wrong question. But this is essentially the same question that I have been asking in terms of a proposed tech/business park. When, and how much money can we expect in return compared to how much it will cost to adopt the plan ? Since I have never been responsible for the business aspect of my career, I may be wrong. But it would seem to me that any business plan would be based on a risk / benefit analysis so that any initial outlay would need to be judged against the expected return. If not, perhaps Frankly or Mark West would like to explain my error ?

    1. Mark West

      We don’t know how much the infrastructure will cost so there is no way of calculating our return on investment (which means Tia, the answer to your question is unknowable at this time). The consultants report reads to me like a very optimistic view of the situation and does not take into account that PG&E does not want to sell and will do everything possible to block the sale of their infrastructure.

      The other aspect of the discussion that is being swept under the rug is the ongoing costs for the new employees needed to operate the POU. Davis does not have a good history of controlling compensation costs, so why does anyone think that we will do so with the POU?

      1. Matt Williams

        Mark, one of the possibilities for the POU with respect to new employees is to take a cue from this very thread … and outsource those operations functions to SMUD.

        1. Mark West

          If that is the plan Matt, then that should have been said up front and included in the consultant’s report. Is SMUD even willing to take it on given the vote of their customer base in 2006?

          1. Matt Williams

            Mark, the consultant’s report was at 10,000 feet. That kind of specific implementation alternatives evaluation was outside of their scope of work … either that or it is another example of my mind being willing to think outside the box.

      2. SouthofDavis

        Mark wrote:

        > We don’t know how much the infrastructure will cost so there
        > is no way of calculating our return on investment

        It is just me or does it seem insane to do ANYTHING until we have a firm price from PG&E to sell their assets.

        If I wanted to open a natural food store in Davis on G Street I would not spend $1 million to plan my business UNTIL I had a firm price from the CoOp to sell their store.

    2. Matt Williams

      You ask a very good question Tia and I don’t have a specific number answer for you. However, let me engage your question in non-number terms. The assets that a POU would buy from PG&E would have a useful life. Let’s for the sake of argument say that that useful life is 20 years (some assets will be higher than 20 some will be lower). When rates are set for the billing of ratepayers, the replacement cost of assets is included in the rate setting calculation. So in our hypothetical example, the first part of what we pay PG&E is for asset replacement (fixed costs that include the interest paid as a portion of debt service), the second part is for the purchase of the actual power from power producers, and the third part is for PG&E’s “guaranteed” level of profits.

      If a POU purchases the assets from PG&E they will have the exact same asset replacement costs as PG&E has. Therefore the payback period will effectively be zero years because the POU will be taking possession of an asset that has a market value that is equal to what was paid in order to acquire that asset.

      Over and above the zero year pay back, the citizens and businesses of Davis will be proportionally divvying up the third part of what we currently pay to PG&E as their “guaranteed” level of profits.

      1. SouthofDavis

        Matt wrote:

        > If a POU purchases the assets from PG&E they will have the
        > exact same asset replacement costs as PG&E has.

        It is hard to imagine that a little Davis run utility would be able to replace assets for the same cost as a big firm that has been doing it for 100 years and has a lot of experience economy of scale.

        I just heard (from one of the subs on the job) what it cost to remodel a Starbucks in the Bay Area. I was amazed 1. How fast they got it done (2 days) and 2. how little it cost (less than a typical Davis bathroom remodel).

  4. Cecilia

    I do believe we have to look at all options possible; however, outsourcing is NOT the solution. there are studies that show that while the initial savings of money MAY occur, the long-term cost for lack of oversight and “customer” (in this case citizen) dissatisfaction increases.

    There is an article in The Economist by Schimpeter (June 30th 2011) that is a good read. “There are signs that outsourcing often goes wrong, and that companies are rethinking their approach to it.”

    Schimpeter goes on to discuss the Boeing outsourcing nightmare of 2003-2004 when Boeing hired contractors to do most of the grunt work on the 787 Dreamliner, which resulted in a nightmare causing Boeing to have to take over sub-contracted work to “prevent them from collapsing.”

    1. growth issue

      I’m sure there are cases where it worked and some cases where it didn’t work. Those that are for it can also put up many examples of good outsourcing outcomes with a simple Google search. We already have example right here in Davis, the tree trimmers and park maintenance outsourcing successes.

    2. Realist

      We’re not building jetliners here. I’m sure there are other job functions to be outsourced that can be easily managed. Infrastructure maintenance comes to mind. We routinely evaluate and re-evaluate job functions to ascertain whether it is practical to outsource or keep in-house.

    3. Matt Williams

      Cecilia, like any contractual agreement, there are good contracts and bad contracts. The outsourcing contracts that succeed are the ones that do a good job of defining the “level of service” that both parties agree is to be delivered under the agreement. That level of service should have well defined milestones. Then both parties to the agreement need to regularly checkpoint the performance against the level of service milestones. Do that, and you have a win-win.

  5. Mr. Toad

    Its all narrow minded. Economic development isn’t mentioned at all. As long as we insist upon not broadening the tax base we are stuck. Balancing the budget on the backs of workers should be far down the list. As for those who don’t have pensions we keep hearing that refrain but more people in Davis have them than those that don’t like to admit.

    1. growth issue

      It’s funny that liberals talk of how well off Davisites are when it comes to more taxation in order to save public employee pay and perks but cry about all the poor in Davis when it comes to school lunches, fluoride for the poor, people living in poverty, etc.

      1. David Greenwald

        I think you’re missing a key factor that Mr. Toad is really an exception, not the rule. We cut $11 million before people like me ever supported the idea of a sales tax.

      2. Tia Will

        GI

        So you don’t think that it is possible that an individual could appropriately realize that both groups of people ( the economically well off, and those less advantaged ) could exist in Davis and talk about these groups in different contexts ?

      1. SouthofDavis

        I also agree that growth issue made a great point.

        Most on the left “say” they want to help the poor, but really just want to grow government all the time (and get more money to their union friends) and hate it when you point out they are hypocrites since raising sales taxes hurts the poor FAR more than the rich.

        This is just like most on the right when they “say” they want to help people ruled by evil dictators, but they really just want to grow the military all the time (and get money to their defense contractor friends and help the multinational firms that give them cash) and hate it when you point out that they are hypocrites and never care when a “friendly” dictator (that gives great deals to US multinational companies) kills his people.

  6. SODA

    rather than reject the concept out of hand, what are some jobs that might be considered for outsourcing? We may not have considered the park maintenance a good fit before we tried it and everyone seems satisfied now. I understand Santa Ana outsources their fire fighting dept to Orange County with good results according to one of my relatives.

    1. Rich Rifkin

      There is no legal reason we could not outsource the fire service, placing all of it under the umbrella of the UCDFD.

      Last week, E. Palo Alto started the process of outsourcing its police service to San Mateo County. Other Bay Area cities have outsourced their fire services to other government bodies to save money.

      If the DFD were closed and the UCDFD took over all 4 stations in town, Chief Trauernicht could hire a new staff for the other 3 stations. DFD employees who were interested could apply.

      Because the DFD union has chosen not to sign a contract with the City of Davis, this is a particularly auspicious time to merge the departments under the UCDFD umbrella. Of course, doing this would be a political challenge. But if we had the will, it could be done. And it would save the general fund millions and millions of dollars over the next several years.

      1. Matt Williams

        Rich, given that this year’s Fire Department expenses in the Adopted Budget are $8,277,052, what would you project the savings to be in the scenario you propose?

        BTW, Police Department expenditures are $14,483,319. Any thoughts on those?

        1. Rich Rifkin

          Rich, given that this year’s Fire Department expenses in the Adopted Budget are $8,277,052, what would you project the savings to be in the scenario you propose?

          I don’t know, Matt.

          Maybe David can tell you the total amount that is composed of salaries of sworn DFD personnel. Then all you would have to do is multiply by the fraction that UCDFD is paid. I think that fraction is around 10/17ths. But even that I do not know. All I know for sure is that the UCDFD personnel make far less in benefits than the DFD personnel. And our great budget crisis is almost entirely one due to the cost of benefits being too high for our revenues.

    1. hpierce

      no… most of the functions are routine, easy to do with computers, relatively low personal responsibility, minor stress… yet under the “comparable worth” mantra, those salaries grew the most, by percentage, in the late ’80’s, compared to field workers and other professionals. People in those positions were the ones who demanded the cafeteria cash-out, as many were the second income spouses.

      As an example, when you deal with credit card folks (finance), are those calls fielded by US workers?

      If we’re not hiring, what is the need for a fully staffed HR? And even if the City were hiring, they care more about protocol than finding the best candidate.

      I believe it was Yvonne Postelle, HR director in 1978 who recommended that her position be eliminated in the wake of Prop 13.

      My %’s may have been exaggerated, but the concept of divisions whose positions could easily be outsourced are not. Did City staff do the recruitment that resulted in Pinkerton’s appointment, or was that out-sourced?

  7. Mr. Toad

    Of course McNaughton has always been a conservative anti-union operation. I guess the Vanguard has more in common with the Enterprise than they care to admit.

    1. hpierce

      I’m insulted that you didn’t call me out, too. with a very few exceptions, I am “anti-union”. Between my Dad’s experience, and that of my significant other, mandatory dues, lack of support for the ‘gifted and talented’ (focusing on the mediocre and/or marginal performing members), I believe most unions are in it for the union hierarchy, padding their own pockets, and are inherently corrupt.

      I DO believe in employee associations who seek voluntary dues, are represented by their own (but who may need legal counsel from time to time), and are generally interested in the outcomes for themselves AND THEIR EMPLOYER (particularly if it is a public employer).

      CTA doesn’t make the cut, in my opinion.

      1. Mr. Toad

        Why call you out? You admit what you are. Its all the race to the bottom conservatives who think that they are liberals that need to be brought before the inquisition.

  8. realchangz

    Do we all live in the same town? Or, maybe the Enterprise articles should have started: “We were just as surprised as the rest of the community when the City Manager announced results of the mid-year budget projections….”

    Out of the blue, in mid-December, you first announce a multi-year, multi-million dollar shortfall – with projections that the General Fund will be empty in the next two years without massive sales and parcel tax increase? Really? Kind of reminds one of the whole Mace 391 discussion – an issue supposedly out of nowhere with major long-term implications for land use planning and economic stability.

    And we couldn’t have been discussing – apparently inevitable reality – beginning when? How about six months ago? Maybe a year ago? We just figured out we had a structural problem of such magnitude that we have less than 60 days to approved this tax measure or that?

    In that context, the Enterprise may be a little late with their commentary, but how can you blame them?

      1. Mark West

        And yet we didn’t do anything to plan for it.

        One way to control the outcome of a potential dispute is to wait until the last minute to bring the discussion to the public’s attention, then pronounce that your desired outcome is the only one that can meet the deadline. That is how this City has functioned for years, with the staff and CC seemingly jumping from one crisis to the next, and dictating how we go forward because there is ‘no time’ to evaluate alternatives.

        The City has many options for reducing expenses without harming services, and outsourcing is one of the very best options on the table. Yes, we should move forward with the sales tax, but we should also be moving forward aggressively with outsourcing and economic development to demonstrate our commitment to controlling our expenses and increasing revenues so that the tax increases really can be viewed as ‘short-term.’

        1. SouthofDavis

          Mark wrote:

          > One way to control the outcome of a potential dispute is to
          > wait until the last minute to bring the discussion to the public’s
          > attention, then pronounce that your desired outcome is the
          > only one that can meet the deadline.

          I’m not in politics, but if I was I would wait until the last minute then say: “We need this tax to pass or will will have to close schools and fire cops and firemen” . This workd time and time again year after year in both blue and red states…

      2. realchangz

        Where was the public outreach and engagement a year ago then? Where was that public conversation and handwringing a year ago about the inevitable need for a $.75 sales tax increase come January 2014? I guess I somehow just missed that front page story or months of council discussion.

        Just to be clear, are you justifying the 60 day window for community notice on this issue?

        1. David Greenwald

          I don’t disagree. It was last year at the budget discussions that Rochelle Swanson first spoke of the need to consider tax revenue measures, and yet no engagement.

          I’m not justifying anything, I think the city has fumbled the PR on this and the POU issue badly.

          1. realchangz

            Sorry, that wasn’t really fair. It’s a combination of the argument, the leadership, the directed priorities and the size of the megaphone/stage employed.

          2. Matt Williams

            I disagree realchange. We all know where the theater is. We all know the play that is being acted out on the stage. We simply don’t care to go to see the performance. We don’t care enough to even look at the advertisements.

            To draw a parallel, my wife and I have neither cable nor satelite in our home. Our television comes to us via an antenna in the attic of our house. No amount of public relations by HBO or ESPN or the History Channel is going to cause us to click the remote to their channel. We are deaf to their message. We are oblivious to their argument. We are oblivious to their leadership. We are oblivious to their directed priorities. We are oblivious to the size of their megaphone. My wife is oblivious to the sports bar stage on which they deliver in addition to our home. I however occasionally spend a few hours on Sundays frequenting that alternative stage. No matter how hard they try, we are deaf to their message.

          3. realchangz

            So, to use your analogy, you’re saying that everybody in Davis is stuck in some time warp back in sputnik era with black & white TV’s. Sorry, but I don’t like the analogy. I like to think that Davisites are more finely attuned to their circumstances and that when presented with alarming, factually supported evidence impacting their fundamental lifestyle, tend to listen up quite smartly – as you are witnessing today.

          4. Matt Williams

            The key words of what you have said is “when presented with alarming […] evidence” they tend to come out of hibernation and pay attention. The issue is not their smarts, it is their prioritization of the various competing claims on their limited inventory of time and energy and emotion. To use your word, their actions are saying, “Don’t bother me unless it truly is alarming.”

            BTW, the numbers don’t lie. In a City of 65,000 residents the number of people who take the time to vote is typically less than 25%. (for example, just under 15,000 for Measure I, the 2012 Council election, the 2010 Council election which was also the Measure R election, the 2008 Council election). The exception to the rule is the Target election in in 2006 where 36% of the citizens voted … 23,400 in all).

    1. iPad Guy

      “Kind of reminds one of the whole Mace 391 discussion – an issue supposedly out of nowhere with major long-term implications for land use planning and economic stability.”

      I don’t see this as a very good comparison. Mace 391 did come out of nowhere to 99% of Davis residents. And, it came in a way that was locked in by the commission and staff.

      Who knows how the property might be financially benefitting the community if the enterprise hadn’t been under the radar until it was dropped on us for such a combative and urgent consideration?

      On the other hand, the looming fiscal crisis has been widely discussed in the community for years. The city has been cutting back services and staff for quite awhile. The magnitude of the problem might have have lack of foresight or of ignorance on the part of city leaders and staff until recently, however.

  9. Michael Harrington

    Times change, and I dont think Davis city government is anywhere near where they need to be to adapt to the new fiscal situation. I’m far from sold on the sales tax, but just to fund roads and very specific infrastructure projects, maybe the parcel; Id have to see the analysis and the list of fixed projects, like the School taxes have

      1. Matt Williams

        David, there isn’t enough time to create a brand new Parcel Tax from scratch, but there may well be enough time to put together an extension/expansion of the existing Parks (and Recreation?) Tax in time for inclusion on the June ballot. If that were done, then the existing monies spent on Parks and recreation that are part of the General Fund could be moved over under the Parks Tax accounting, and the resultant freed up funds in the General Fund could be used to address our crumbling streets pavement infrastructure.

        1. hpierce

          Ok… again you advocate an increase in the parks tax, CITY-wide, and yet the folks in Willowbank, Binning Tract, El Macero benefit from City parks, and pay NADA for their acquisition, nor maintenance, and provide no maintained public space for City residents.

          Nice.

          1. Matt Williams

            hpierce, you once again don’t seem to understand the definition of “advocating.” I’m simply laying out the various alternatives … objectively and dispassionately.

          2. Matt Williams

            Once again you ignore the fact that the folks in Davis benefit from County social services (the Health Department, Alcohol and Drug Treatment, et.al.) or Agriculture department services that ensure that a considerable portion of the fresh food that arrives at local grocery stores is safe, and pay NADA for their provision. Further, all those County residents you cite do provide 1,823 acres of maintained public space for City residents, and City residents and pay NADA for their provision.

          3. hpierce

            Actually, Davis residents do pay for the county services and facilities, but doesn’t work the other direction.

          4. Matt Williams

            Incorrect hpierce. City and County property taxpayers pay the exact same tax rate per assessed dollar of home value. The State takes its cut of those taxes. The School District takes its cut, and the remainder is the County portion, which in the case of City residents is further reduced by the portion that flows to the City. A County resident’s “City” portion stays with the County and pays for services that City residents don’t pay for because in their case that “City” portion is fully committed to paying for services provided to City residents.

          5. growth issue

            Yes hpierce, don’t you just love it when someone suggests taxes that they don’t have to pay but you do?

          6. Matt Williams

            Same response to you G.I. as to hpierce earlier … you are conveniently ignoring the fact that the folks in Davis benefit from County social services (the Health Department, Alcohol and Drug Treatment, et.al.) and Agriculture department services that ensure that a considerable portion of the fresh food that arrives at local grocery stores is safe, and pay NADA for their provision. Further, all those County residents you cite do provide 1,823 acres of maintained public space for City residents, and City residents and pay NADA for their provision.

          7. iPad Guy

            NADA? Nada? This is news to me.

            It seems as though Davis taxpayers would be contributing our share to county, state and federal services.

            How did we get excluded?

          8. growth issue

            Matt, first off I don’t know if that’s true or not as I pay County taxes too. But even if it is true you won’t find me “suggesting” more taxes that you would have to pay but I wouldn’t.

          9. Matt Williams

            G.I., what is it about transparent, dispassionate, objective consideration of all the alternatives that you object to. I’m simply laying out the alternatives. The decision about what alternative to choose happens elsewhere.

            It sounds like you have no desire to collaboratively analyze the positives and negatives of, as well as the tradeoffs between the various alternatives. Is that right?

          10. Matt Williams

            Nobody said anything about State or Federal taxes. You and I are treated exactly the same at the State level, ther Federal level and the School District level. Where we are different is how the remaining slice of the pie is divvied up between the City and the County. That remainder for you and for me is “X” dollars after the Feds, State and Schools get done. In my case 100% of “X” goes to the County. In your case “Y” goes to the City and “X-Y” goes to the County. “X” os clearly a bigger number than “X-Y.”

  10. Mr. Toad

    Times change Mike but you want to cling to a Davis of yesteryear doing everything you can to stymie growth. Then when the chickens come home to roost and we are broke, you don’t want to pay up to support the lifestyle to which you have grown accustomed.

  11. Frankly

    I do believe we have to look at all options possible; however, outsourcing is NOT the solution. there are studies that show that while the initial savings of money MAY occur the long-term cost for lack of oversight and “customer” (in this case citizen) dissatisfaction increases.

    I disagree with this, although I do agree that outsourcing can result in problems if not done correctly.

    A key is in designing a quality contract with the correct incentives and penalties for performance. Another key is to train the management staff for shifting to excellent contract management rather than personnel management.

    I think this needs to be looked at function by function within the city services. There are going to be some departments that are easier to outsource than others. However, for each that we do outsource, there is a lot of meat on the bone with respect to benefits cost savings. I would be surprised if we could not get same or better service at a significantly reduced cost.

  12. Rich Rifkin

    David Greenwald’s piece misses the mark entirely. He acts as if The Enterprise has said “we can solve the entire budget problem with outsourcing.” It says no such thing. It simply says that there may be functions now being done in-house which could be done out-of-house more cheaply (and better in some cases), and these need to be explored as part of the solution.

    As things now stand, the Council is set to raise taxes on Feb 11 without having exhausted all avenues for saving money without reducing levels of service. If outsourcing could save a little money, maybe the tax hike would not have to be so high.

    An example I think should be considered, now, is outsourcing the repairs for city vehicles (such as police cars and fire engines). Most agencies in our region (I was told) use private companies which specialize in repairing public safety vehicles. Davis, by contrast, has its own shop. There perhaps are some good arguments for doing this in-house. But in a severe budget crisis which is getting worse, it is wise to ask how much money Davis would save closing up its shop and sending those vehicles out for repairs? I imagine the answer is hundreds of thousands of dollars–largely because we would no longer have to pay for the OPEB and pension costs.

    1. David Greenwald

      “As things now stand, the Council is set to raise taxes on Feb 11 without having exhausted all avenues for saving money without reducing levels of service. If outsourcing could save a little money, maybe the tax hike would not have to be so high.”

      Maybe. But you’re talking the difference between a three-quarters-cent and half-cent tax increase. At this point, council is reluctant to lay off additional employees, so I don’t see this as a viable solution. WHat I do see it doing is undermining the city’s ability to get a tax measure passed, just seven days before they have to vote to put it on the ballot.

      1. Mark West

        Why are you worried about the next seven days? The City has four months to demonstrate that the tax measure is needed, while at the same time doing all they can do to reduce the need for the tax to be long-term. It isn’t what the City does in the next 7 days that will determine whether the tax will pass, it will be the judgement of how the City performs going forward that will be determine if the citizens vote to continue to support those efforts.

        Continued cost cutting and investing in economic development are what is needed now, not looking for more ways to spend money and enlarge the City staff.

      2. iPad Guy

        “At this point, council is reluctant to lay off additional employees, so I don’t see this as a viable solution.”

        Since when did you start writing off the council’s reluctance to do something that makes ultimate sense as the reason to write it off as a “viable solution”? The council is reluctant to raise taxes, so that’s not a viable solution? The council has been reluctant to budget for deferred maintenance, so you should’ve realized that spending more there wasn’t a viable solution.

        I’m beginning to think that you’re displaying a concern for the city employees who would lose their jobs in a significant layoff.

        1. David Greenwald

          If we had six months to decide this, I’d argue you have a point. In a week, it’s less obvious. I don’t oppose looking into ways to save money through outsourcing, but as a secondary approach.

          1. iPad Guy

            We already know what our deficit is. We know about how much each increment of each tax will produce.

            I won’t take any longer to agree to trade off $X-million in staff cuts for $X-thousands of contracts and accompany that commitment with X% sales tax increase. In addition, there should be decisions made about what services we should cut and NOT replaced by contracting out.

            It’s the whole package that needs to be determined. No part of the balancing solution is “secondary” and none should be delayed.

            On more reflection (combined with your rationale for rushing into a tax solution), I realize that realchangz made an important comparison re. Mace 391. (“We have to hurry up and make a decision without thorough evaluation because of an unreasonable and somewhat artificial deadline.”)

    2. Nancy Price

      Is there an different model let’s say for repair of public safety vehicles? That is: keep the shop open (save carbon output on driving vehicles to some other shop), and hire independent workers by the hour who carry their own medical insurance)”; not sure how to handle the pension issue. I am sure there are many who, and of course I am one, would rather keep services in public hands and not privatized-for-profit, and I am sure that there are many who would take the job.
      These contract workers would need to be negotiated with and managed by the city with individuals and not a corporation, but that could be done. Where there’s a will there is a way. We need to think about many different kinds of models and maybe different models of out-sourcing.

      1. hpierce

        Heck, let’s avoid both city and corporations and find another labor source…Simlply Liberal And Virtuous Employee Sources… I’ll leave the appropriate acronym to others… would save a huge amount of money, no post-retirement benefits, be politically correct, avoid greedy private companies (am assuming Ms Price has no investments in such enterprices), and would provide work for qualified, but currently unemployed folks.

        Of course, we’d have to restrict the candidate pool to those who are healthy (and therefore need no medical/dental coverage), would have to walk or bike to work, and bullet-vote either Democrat, Green, or Libertarian.

  13. SODA

    Readers of rhe DV and others have known of our budget shortfall for awhile, maybe the extent of the shortfall is new news, but we have known. Why then are we backed into a time crunch corner for the sales tax deadline and deadline for parcel tax and now talk of outsourcing? why wasn’t the CC discussing these things before the 11th hour?

  14. Michael Harrington

    Ryan: I have been trying. The challenge to the surface water project resulted in direct savings to the ratepayers of over $135,000,000, by staff’s own acknowledgement. Those ratepayers are mostly local voters, and are the ones you need on board for any revenue devices. The water project is already draining huge amounts of discretionary resources out of the community, and it is destined to get much worse. All of you know that I predicted before the WAC and the Measure I that if that big project was approved and the ratepayers were soaked to pay for it, the city could kiss off any new taxes for some time. I think I hear the chickens coming home to roost …. Sorry, Ryan, but I have been fighting for solutions for a long time. Now, if the CC voted to pause the project and roll back the rate increases as a demonstration of its good faith to the local voters, I think you would see some good solutions appear; but that would mean that the fiscal elites and business interest groups that control the project and the CC would have to let that pause and rollback happen.

    Seriously, we all know that the Sacramento River is going to be lower and lower and more and more sporadic over time. Read any of the climate studies. The project will not produce reliable water.

    Well, the voters are going to have one more crack at these horrible rates, when the water rates initiative is on the ballot.

    1. Mr. Toad

      Really Mike, want to post a link to those climate studies? Last I heard we didn’t know if the future for the pacific coast would be hotter and drier or hotter and wetter. Perhaps you have new information or perhaps you are talking out of the same end that McGuire handed back to you in your briefcase.

  15. Davis Progressive

    it would be have been more helpful if the Enterprise editorial framed the issue more carefully as Rifkin has here. Some savings from outsourcing, lower taxes. But it does us no good to raise the issue seven days before the tax revenue is due. And while we can somewhat blame the city for making their bed here, at the same time, why didn’t Rifkin and the Enterprise raise this issue in December when the deficit’s extent was finalized?

    and btw, we knew about the five million at least since this summer.

  16. Ryan Kelly

    Where does our government need to be to “adapt to the new fiscal situation” – specifically a lack of revenue, soaring retiree healthcare and pension costs, deferred maintenance of roads and infrastructure. You don’t support a sales tax, but support yet another parcel tax, but only if you approve of a limited list of projects (I’m sure so you can make sure that the money doesn’t go toward any “growth inducing” repairs or investment in the City’s infrastructure). If we don’t increase revenue, then which services would you believe we should cut, which employees should we lay off and their services out-sourced?

  17. iPad Guy

    “Outsourcing labor at this time figures to further undermine employee morale, create large numbers of layoffs, and probably not save the city as much money as we might hope.”

    Your first prediction is an unfortunate, necessary and obvious. Your second simply describes the objective. Your third requires explanation–what would you expect an undefined “large number of layoffs” to save and why wouldn’t it save as much as you hope?

    I haven’t read the Enterprise article yet, but your summary seems to describe the same concerns and potential solutions that you’ve been announcing for more than a year.

    Yet, you write that “the Vanguard disagrees with much of the premise” that our labor costs put us on an unsustainable path, one that eventually could lead us to bankruptcy without a combination of steep cuts and a large tax increase. Which “much of the premise” do you find wanting? Whether other cities already find themselves in a worse situation than Davis is not an argument The Enterprise even is making.

    You continue, “While daunting, the city’s current deficit can be dealt with through a combination of further cuts and tax measures,” which seems to echo the Enterprise observation. The only difference is that you seem to think there’s no need to target any more staff for elimination or replacement by outsourcing.

    Rich Rifkin has pointed out the dramatic personnel cost increases already baked in for future years. The city needs to continue its attack on this looming problem.

    I’ve always thought that civil service workers brought a dedication and concern to their work that could not be matched by contractors. In addition, they historically had lower pay expectations in exchange for better job security and a dependable (if not generous) retirement plan.

    I’ve also felt that workers and local communities tend to fare better in a government bureaucracy than a profit oriented bureaucracy. At some point, however, public service workers found themselves no longer the most cost effective and competitive alternative for many municipal needs.

    I suspect the city already has done some evaluations about where effective contracting would provide the most savings–so pulling together some of that data in a week shouldn’t be all that daunting a task.

    I’d think you’d be pleased that the Davis mainstream media finally acknowledges the fiscal seriousness you’ve been promoting for such a long time.

    It seems that your solution tends toward more taxes with some cuts and the Enterprise sees a somewhat bigger dilemma that demands bigger cuts to accompany some tax increases. A distinction, I guess, but not as much of a disagreement as one might think.

  18. Nancy Price

    Is there an different model let’s say for repair of public safety vehicles? That is: keep the shop open (save carbon output on driving vehicles to some other shop), and hire independent workers by the hour who carry their own medical insurance)”; not sure how to handle the pension issue. I am sure there are many who, and of course I am one, would rather keep services in public hands and not privatized-for-profit, and I am sure that there are many who would take the job.

    These individual contract workers would need to be negotiated with and managed by the city and not with a corporation, but that could be done. We need to think about many different models including for out-sourcing.

    1. iPad Guy

      I’m not sure of that hiring workers by the hour would somehow eliminate the requirements for employee benefits, including insurance, retirement eligibility, etc. Such a effort certainly would be resisted by public unions and others.

      I know of an agency that formerly maintained a small fleet with two employees (a mechanic and assistant) than switched to local businesses for maintenance. It didn’t require much carbon to get to Hoffman’s and Vander Hamm, particularly since they already were handling non-warrantee major repairs.

      It seems as though city services that could be conducted by local businesses (especially ones that have local competition) should be the first to consider for privatization.

    2. Ryan Kelly

      It doesn’t work like that, Nancy. If the City controls their hours of work and dictates their duties, then they cannot be independent contractors. The City would have to hire them as employees. The City would have to outsource to a company with employees (and insurance – workman’s comp, liability, health, etc.) or individuals who have their own business. The City would be merely a customer. Businesses are supposed to make a profit. That is the way capitalism works. Outsourcing is a way for Cities to get the same service without having to pay prevailing wages, deal with employee contracts or unions, health care, pensions, vacation & sick leave and overtime.

  19. Michael Harrington

    Ryan: you and your other friends who gave us the water project should go to work and come up with a plan to try and mitigate the fiscal and political damage. I’ve done my part. Go talk to Brett Lee and see what his plan is; we made it clear to him that his active support for the project was going to have predictable consequences for the city. You guys can work on the mitigation plan now.

    1. Ryan Kelly

      Mike, Here is the title of this article: “Should the City Consider Outsourcing Jobs As a Means to Cut $5.1 Million Deficit?”

      Try to stay on the topic and not think about your lawsuit for a minute. What you you think? Should the City consider outsourcing? If not, then what should the City do to increase revenue?

  20. Nancy Price

    And, as for the way the CC operates: for years and years the strategy has been to wait until the last minute to consider and make decisions – often – late into the evening. And, many times over-riding staff and the public – so why should the public get involved? We’ve lost any sense of what real participatory democracy might look like.

    As long as the School Board and the CC are seen as ladders to “higher” office, and there is the need to keep certain groups fire and police, the Chamber, the University, AND developers on your side for campaign contributions, we will get “political” decisions and false arguments and even worse false solutions, rather than debate and solutions based on principles of social, economic, and environmental justice and human rights.

    1. Mr. Toad

      Perhaps we should pay our council members enough so they don’t need day jobs then the meetings could end before bedtime. Funny thing the anti-privatization people are anti-union anti-prevailing wage and anti-pension. Oh the irony!

      1. hpierce

        Huh? Most of the pro-privatization folks are as you described. Most anti-privitazaton folks are the opposite. The poster you respond to is an “out-lier”.

      2. Nancy Price

        Did I say I was anti-union, anti-prevailing wage and anti-pension? No, and my modest post made no assumptions that non-union workers would be hired below prevailing wage.

        As far as out-sourcing, how many for-profit businesses are paying decent healthcare and pensions these days?

    2. Ryan Kelly

      So when did your group turn in their signatures? Sort of last minute, huh.

      And what’s with this new term, “participatory democracy?” I thought Mike was calling it “direct democracy.” Personally, I think that it is a campaign slogan, just like the term “progressive” has been taken over by a group that forgets what it used to stand for. Obstruction seems to be the strategy. Look closely and you have a core group of people who want to control everything, stop all change, and is deeply entrenched in tea party conservatism.

        1. Ryan Kelly

          And these do?

          “Ryan: you and your other friends who gave us the water project should go to work and come up with a plan to try and mitigate the fiscal and political damage. I’ve done my part. Go talk to Brett Lee and see what his plan is; we made it clear to him that his active support for the project was going to have predictable consequences for the city. You guys can work on the mitigation plan now.”

          1. Ryan Kelly

            OK. Then here’s my response to Nancy.

            I feel that you are not seeing all the outreach that the City does and do not value work of City staff. Your assertion that City Council members are solely acting in a way that will help them win hire office is very confused. The City Council runs some very late meetings. I don’t believe the late hour diminishes the ability for people to make themselves heard any more than a meeting held during the day would. None of the decisions made by the Council have suddenly appeared on an agenda, discussed and voted on in the wee hours of the morning. What you seem to be saying is that holding things off to the last minute is a political strategy designed to prevent public participation, but I think that things are done last minute because of all of the participation and it is something that you yourself have done recently (by turning in signatures for an initiative at the very last minute), I suspect so you could include as many people as possible. I feel that your view of the City and City Council is colored by the fact that you are in the middle of a lawsuit against the City, which can’t be helping the “warm fuzzy feeling” toward City government. It doesn’t help from my end, when your lawyer taunts people and claims that “me and my friends” are responsible for cheating people – knowing that I am not really. The focus on water rates is obscuring other pressing issues in town.

  21. Don Shor

    “Ryan: you and your other friends who gave us the water project should go to work and come up with a plan to try and mitigate the fiscal and political damage. I’ve done my part. Go talk to Brett Lee and see what his plan is; we made it clear to him that his active support for the project was going to have predictable consequences for the city. You guys can work on the mitigation plan now.”

    ‘There has been considerable discussion over several threads on the Vanguard about strategies for dealing with the fiscal issues facing the city. They involve:

    — staff reductions and continued budget cuts.
    — increased sales tax.
    — another local parcel tax.
    — economic development including annexation for business parks of sites east of Mace and adjacent to the hospital in the northwest quadrant.

    I seem to understand that you, Michael, oppose at least two, perhaps three, of those strategies. Vanguard participants here have discussed the details, ranging from how high a sales tax increase would be needed, how much of a parcel tax would be needed, and specific options for reducing city expenses. That last is what this thread is about. So if you have practical solutions to the city’s fiscal problems, I urge you to suggest them.

    1. Frankly

      As long as the School Board and the CC are seen as ladders to “higher” office, and there is the need to keep certain groups fire and police, the Chamber, the University, AND developers on your side for campaign contributions, we will get “political” decisions and false arguments and even worse false solutions, rather than debate and solutions based on principles of social, economic, and environmental justice and human rights.

      Well said Nancy Price.

      But are we just screaming at the wall for changing this?

      It might just be as good as it gets.

      Who runs for office? Why do they run for office? Why would they run for office?

      George Washington wanted to be back home at Mt. Vernon.

      I think the design of our representative democracy was that normal people would serve and then go back to their normal lives.

      Then we got degrees in political science.

      And we started seeing politics as a respected and valuable career pursuit.

      Then the media started clipping the wings of many good people by allowing the sensational exploitation of what would otherwise be normal human faux pas and foibles… while ironically ignoring the critical stories because they lack entertainment value.

      So we attract what are really just temporary actors moving to the next show.

      Again, I’m not convinced that we can ever change this. But maybe we can all look in the mirror at our own behavior… who we vote for and why.

      1. David Greenwald

        It doesn’t matter who we vote for – that’s the problem. Because to win in politics you need money. Money matters more than most other things. In the Assembly Race, everyone thinks Matt Pope is in trouble because of money, Bill Dodd stunned people and Joe Krovoza put himself back in the running despite his lack of endorsements.

        1. Frankly

          So why? Why does money matter? And has there ever been a time in any democratic system where money did not matter? And what if money did not matter? What would power the influence of a candidate?

          I think the money argument is like blaming alcohol for the existence of alcoholics. It comes down to the quality of character and choice. If a candidate raises money with commitments for payback, that is unethical. If a candidate accepts money from donors that even infer expectations of payback, that is unethical. If a candidate does not disclose offers of campaign donation with strings attached, that is unethical.

          But if a candidate has a base of beliefs that match those of a donor, and accepts donations with no commitments and no expectations other than this simple connection, there is nothing unethical. And if a candidate matches up with more donors having this connection, then he/she might have a money advantage… but in that case it would seem justified in a democratic system.

          If we keep electing people that demonstrate a lack of ethics or honesty, and/or that are known to have base beliefs that will contribute to known problems, and we do so because of the money spent on the campaign and not because we spent enough time understanding the issues and vetting the truly best candidate, then that is a voter problem.

      2. hpierce

        The George Washington comparison is a myth, or spin initiated by GW himself. He was ambitious, served not one, but two terms, but he did not want to be an american king. He died pretty shortly from leaving office. But make no mistake, GW had such a big ego, that he regularly tried to show “humility”. In the culture and circumstances after the american revolution, he was astute about this. BTW, as a General, he had lousy stats. He did have a gift to pick good military officers… Lee, Allen, Gates, Von Steubing, but also was supportive of Arnold, until…

        1. Frankly

          Well you need to tell the historians at Mt. Vernon that Washington wanted a career in politics and not that as a farmer, inventor, etc. I have been there several times and your characterization of his motivation to serve as president… at least the second term… is far from what I have heard many times over.

          I agree with all the other points.

          1. Frankly

            He was more than that.

            But he was a white male so I expect the leftist history rewrite to make him into something less impressive.

            He was one of the first lard land owners to free his slaves at his death.

  22. David Greenwald

    I meant to find this early: this article is from June 26, 2013

    It contains this lovely photo:

    Fund Balance

    That was the first time we really knew we were in trouble, though the City Manager hinted at it in early June

    Bottom line is that the city clearly had far more time to plan for the revenue problem than they gave themselves.

    But that article in late June only drew 15 comments on here, while it was surround by 100+ comment articles, so there is shared blame.

    1. Frankly

      I have a sense that the sophistication of the people, systems and processes in city budget and finance is significantly less than what is required given the complexity that has developed over the years as our State legislators and governors have implemented so many budging and funding gimmicks to protect themselves from having to admit their fiscal malfeasance and from having to cut more away from their public sector union benefactors.

      We have a mess of of a funding and cost design that makes budgeting and forecasting horrendously complex. Then we get hit was something like the governor’s destruction of RDA… it just adds fuel to a growing fire.

      I could scream about city incompetence, but I think the problem is systemic and primarily the result of Sacramento and Washington.

      And part of the reason I am against a POU is this growing nest of budgeting complexity and the sense that the cit staff is in already over their heads.

      Growing administrative complexity and growing bureaucracy are risks that all organizations face. It is those of us that recognized this, and the greater tendencies of it for public sector organizations, that keep calling for smaller government. It is not just that it keeps growing in cost… it also keeps growing beyond the level of management sophistication required.

      What we need is a predictive budgeting modeling system that handles all the variables and can be updated constantly as we learn about changes to revenue and expense due to:

      1. Federal and State government policy changes
      2. Economic factors
      3. Oops… I forgot something

      I have a fairly complex budgeting model/process and it is orders of magnitude less complex than what the city deals with. I suggest we invest some effort into developing a comprehensive budget modeling system as part of our effort to balance the budget. And while we are at it, we might offer to help with the numbers on a go-forward basis instead of looking back casting blame.

  23. Ryan Kelly

    David, I think that people just don’t have any idea what to do about this. Many of us do not have finance backgrounds so we are dependent on the expertise of others. However, it has come down to us paying more in taxes, while hoping some plan to increase revenue is developed. This may require land around the City be opened up to build non-retail commercial buildings. We need to be open to this, if that ends up being the best solution. But just raising taxes higher and higher is not a solution.

    1. David Greenwald

      I agree raising taxes higher and higher is not a solution, I think we will see some proposals for business parks, but I don’t see a lot of support for much more than that. Rochelle Swanson basically said on the record nothing on the east after Mace 200. The West proposal includes housing right now and I don’t see council inclined to open that.

      And remember, the city has not raised taxes in a decade.

          1. SouthofDavis

            David wrote:

            > remember, the city has not raised taxes in a decade.

            If you don’t count the parcel taxes “OR” the ~20% increase in property taxes over the past decade…

      1. Frankly

        And remember, the city has not raised taxes in a decade.

        You are thinking too narrow. Overall taxes have increased significantly. Thank your governor and your president and your Democrat-controlled state legislature and the Democrat monarch of the Senate.

        I don’t think most people will vote yes or no using the logic that the city has not asked for any tax increases lately. I know neighbors that view Davis city government as just a local branch/extension of the national tax and spend Party. These are people that enjoy poking fund of the TEA Party while saying they are taxed enough already.

    2. Matt Williams

      Ryan, you have done a very good job of explaining why I volunteer my time in the pursuit of a thorough, transparent, dispassionate discussion of the parameters of the problem and the characteristics of the alternatives.

  24. Michael Harrington

    My solutions? Well, I agree with Ryan Kelly: cut the city budget some more. And work overtime to compile a list of the essential items that a parcel tax would pay for, and if it looks good, then put it on the ballot and hope and pray. I would not increase the sales tax right now. I dont have my finger on the details of which budgets to cut, what to outsource, or which projects need the parcel tax. That’s the job of Brett Lee and his colleagues and staff.

    1. David Greenwald

      ” I would not increase the sales tax right now. ”

      Then you’re precluding a sales tax measure for two years, which is the only tax the city can pass that’s a simple majority.

    2. Mr. Toad

      What did Pinkerton say we will need to cut another 50 or was it 100 city employees. So who you going to cut Mike? The cops, the firefighters, the parks, public works. Oh its so easy to say we should just cut everything and leave it to the Brett Lee to figure it out. I wonder what Brett will say to that.

    3. Ryan Kelly

      I don’t think I said that I wanted to achieve all of the savings through cutting the budget. So I don’t know how you could agree with me. I did ask, if services were cut or out-sourced, which functions or departments would Mike support cutting. I think Mike is like many, that he doesn’t like any solution and really doesn’t want the problem. But it is there and we may need to add commercial development and/or raise taxes and/or cut services to deal with it – maybe all three. Adding a sales tax is something we can do right away.

  25. Michael Harrington

    Ryan: it’s complicated, I will grant you. I dont have any detailed instant soundbite solutions. However, I read a lot, and my sense is there is still a lot of extra in the city’s bloated budgets that needs to be cut. If the CC wont do it, I think the voters will. My vote in June on CC wont be on social isues, won’t be on who loves or hates urban sprawl, won’t be on the water project. It will be all about which candidates convince me that they are going to balance the budget with little or no revenue enhancement (new taxes), and stop catering to special interests who gain when the city overspends. I am sorry, but I and nearly every private business person I know have been sucking air for more than 5 years. Meanwhile, many, if not most, public employees have sat there and refused to take much of a haircut and they would rather the CC gut family programs and other public benefits than reduce pay and benefits to fit the economic times that have crashed over the heads of private business. It’s all been “we want what’s ours, and you, the taxpayers and voters, can go pound sand.”

    A lot of people I know feel this way.

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