Ventura City Council Meeting
March 7, 2011
Ventura City Hall - 501 Poli Street
Steps for tonight's workshop – a facilitated discussion conducted by Human Resources Director Jenny Roney. The staff was asking Council to lead in an approach toward taking money from various reserves, making deeper cuts or as a combination of the two, with the staff's presentation and Council discussion consuming most of the session. The mayor felt that public speakers should be heard first, so in speaking to the public the mayor stated that "if you don't want something cut it should be so stated."
Miguel Rodriguez spoke saying, "Good evening, My name is Miguel Rodriguez, and I'm a Ventura resident, council-members after reading the administrative report which suggests closing public restrooms at neighborhood parks to save money, I'm not surprised that one of the suggestions for a one time source of revenue for the general fund is pocketing the money from the west side pool which seems to be the most feasible alternative which will yield the least amount of adverse publicity ... [ the complete text ]
Mayor Fulton brought the meeting to order, calling upon the Girl Scouts to lead in the Pledge of Allegiance. With Colors having been presented by Troop 186, all in attendance rose to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
The mayor asked that the roll be taken – all members present.
Special Presentations and Announcements – Mayor for a Moment – this month's essayist, fifth grader Courtney Caldwell, delivered a piece on the very important personal characteristic we all know as kindness. Courtney, accompanied to the dais by her mother Heather, opened in classic fashion with the assertion that kindness means treating others the way you would wish to be treated. The world would be a place of mean words if there were no kindness, and that by saying thank you, you invite others to do something nice back. Kind words should be exchanged and kind deeds as well, according to the young "Mayor for a Moment.”
Mayor Fulton then presented a plaque to Courtney, and a key to the city along with a pin which she will no doubt wear proudly at school.
The mayor then proceeded to a special presentation Girl Scout troop 186, thanking them for leading in the flag ceremony, while congratulating everyone involved with the worldwide organization on the anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts. The Girl Scouts were invited up along with Lisa to the front of the dais. The certificate of recognition from the council was presented to Lisa, who stated that Deputy Mayor Tracy bought cookies for all the council members, compliments of the troop members.
Monthly Volunteer Award – the Volunteer Ventura Award – sometimes it being a Community Collaborator group honor and at others, the Community Motivator Individual Achievement award – saw this evening’s Community Motivator award go to Gene Dunn, a retired veteran firefighter. Known as the city's unofficial Lead Wrangler, Dean has become a beloved member of the community and an unselfish volunteer. The recipient being slightly microphone shy he thanked his wife, and, in his inimitable way, returned to his seat.
Council Communications – City Council Member Monahan asked that James Johnston be remembered at the close of the meeting. The councilman displayed a poster inviting all to participate in the St. Patrick's Day parade which will be held this Saturday. Ed Hogan is the grand marshal, with 90 floats and four high school bands in participation.
Council Member Morehouse said that neighborhood cleanup awards could be instituted in Ventura as is the custom in many cities along the eastern seaboard. The League of California Cities' position was of such concern to the councilman that his exhortations included an appeal to the individual voter to write to their assemblymen in an attempt to curb the governor's attempt to shut down redevelopment agencies.
The mayor thanked all who participated in Fashion Week, a theatrical and a modeling event to benefit the Rainbow Coalition. He thanked Erica Harding who worked diligently in putting on the event.
Regional Boards, Commissions and Committees – Council Member Morehouse attended the SCAG meeting last week, with nothing major to report but reminding all within range of his voice that significant funding for cities is predicated on population. A development that is on the minds of many arises from the fact that there is a discrepancy between the state’s Department of Finance tracking numbers for population growth as against the actual 2010 census data. The new numbers are coming out tomorrow, with SCAG continuing to argue its point based on the Federal US Census numbers as the baseline.
The mayor attended the CTC meeting on Friday. Funding for public transit for 2012 has some good news to report. The one-quarter of 1% increase in fare ridership will present additional opportunities for restoring some of the reduced or discontinued bus routes. The Bell Arts Factory will host group meetings on Wednesdays this month.
Closed Session Report – Council conducted a session addressing the authority to discuss labor negotiations. The Fire Management Association was also involved.
CONSENT ITEMS – With a solo item on the agenda there was no formal consent calendar. Agenda Item No. 1, however, was to conduct the General Fund Fiscal Year 2011-2012 Budget Workshop. There were other items of general interest as well, and these may be accessed by following the links provided.
IT Creating Efficiencies – showing: (1) The issue isn’t "IT efficiency” – (2) It is the benefits achieved in your business.
IT Creating Efficiencies (more) – showing: (1) Improvements in the speed of customer service (or in response time) – (2) More availability of useful information – (3) More customer access – (4) Easier/quicker to get work done – (5) New customer service(s) – (6) Increased capacity – (7) Increased flexibility
What the City is Doing – showing: (1) Installing completely new hardware and software throughout the city – (1.1) Enterprise resource planning, ERP – (1.2) Utility billing – (1.3) Debt management – (1.4) Energov – (1.5) Voice communication – (2) Moving to the Web
Our Goal in Doing All This – showing: (1) Speed and accessibility to data – (2) Moving all systems to a web-based platform, reducing equipment costs – (3) Provides access to everything 24/7 – (4) and provides access from anywhere, e.g., Zimbra replaced Microsoft Outlook.
Efficiency Curve – showing: (1) Previous steady-state – (2) Where we are now – (3) Efficiency, higher/lower – (4) New steady state. What we are doing now is reconfiguring our servers. The speaker said that "the worst is behind us.” He said that the new steady state will be higher than the previous steady-state.
Practical Results So Far – showing: Efficiencies – Human Resources, showing: (1) Online benefits enrollment – (1.1) Laborious manual process has moved to an automated web-based system – (1.2) Decreases margin for error, no mailing of forms – (1.3) During-year changes are automated.
Efficiencies – Human Resources (more) showing: (1) City wide since FY 07-08, sixteen clerical/administrative staffing reductions have been made, $1.0 million – (1.1) Office assistant, secretary, public services assistant, etc.
Efficiencies – Payroll – showing: (1) ISE, Police Department automated scheduling software – (2) TeleStaff, Fire Department automated scheduling software – (3) Both now up and running and interfaced with Agresso
Efficiencies – IT – showing: (1) Costs are in IT, benefits are in departments – (2) System has allowed us to assume the burden of increased regulation.
Efficiencies – Budget – showing: (1) Will go live with "Planner” this month – (2) Provides significant analytical tools and "what if” capabilities to operational departments – (3) But behind the scenes maintenance is substantial
Efficiencies – Accounting – showing: (1) Increased structure leads to increased integrity and accuracy – (2) More tracking ability – (3) Easier to monitor financial health of the city
Efficiencies – Accounting (more) showing: (1) Significantly more current – (1.1) Daily general ledger – (1.2) Journals entered daily – (2) System has allowed us to assume the burden of increased regulation without additional staff
Efficiencies – Community Development – showing: – (1) Electronic distribution of PC/DRC/HPC commission packets – (2) Reduced usage of paper, and time of administrative staff to assemble packets – (3) Packets are also available 2 weeks before meeting allowing Advisory Board members more time to review
Efficiencies – Community Development (more) showing: (1) Energov Software, In process, 75 percent complete – (2) Also affects Public Works, Finance and Technology, Fire Police, Water/Wastewater – (3) Consolidation of Planning, Fire prevention, Building and Safety, Code Enforcement, Traffic Control, Land Development, and Business License databases
Efficiencies – Community Development (more) showing: (1) Improve public access to project information – (2) Increase in speed and improve quality of plan check, permit, business license, and inspection service delivery – (3) Permit and application processes improved or streamlined – (4) $10,000 of incremental revenue annually by reducing the omission of fees
Efficiencies – Community Development (more) showing: (1) Automation of city fee calculations and fee assignment – (2) Improved internal cross-departmental access to information – (3) Integrated with city GIS system
Efficiencies – Community Development (more) showing: (1) Coming – (1.1) Capability to provide web-based permit application and permitting – (1.2) Capability to provide Web based business license application – (1.3) Capability to provide digital plan review services (1.4) Capability to provide Web – based code enforcement case submittals – (1.5) Capability to offer inspection requests via telephone or Web – (1.6) Capability to offer e-mailed applications status updates to customers
Efficiencies – Water Utility – showing: (1) installed new billing software – (2) Benefits – (2.1) Savings in employee time – (2.2) Improvement in customer satisfaction
Efficiencies – Water Utility (more) showing: (1) Cost savings in employee time – (1.1) Billing takes 30% less time – (1.2) System catches data errors, misreads, leaks and no reads – (1.3) Were captured manually previously – (1.4) Takes 30 minutes to run weekly tags – (1.4.1) previously three hours – (1.5) Turn off list now takes 15 minutes – (1.5.1) previously 2 hours
Efficiencies – Water Utility (more) showing: (1) cost savings in employee time, cont’d – 1.6 System automatically transfers in dollars between accounts, was manual – (1.7) NSFs are automated, saves one hour per week – (1.8) Collections are automated and e-mailed to collection agency, saves eight hours per month – (1.9) Meter change-outs can be done during billing, saves one hour per month
Efficiencies – Water Utility (more) showing: (1) Improvement in customer satisfaction – (1.1) Customers can pay online, 20 to 30 per day resulting in less traffic in treasury – (1.2) Customers can look at bills online, do not need to call billing office for info – (1.3) Amount of time per call is down, 10 to 15 seconds as everything is on one screen
Efficiencies – Fleet Maintenance – showing: (1) Implemented an online presented maintenance PM scheduling system – (2) Allows customers to select the day and time that they want to bring their vehicle in for service
Efficiencies – Fleet Maintenance (more) showing: (1) Provides improved productivity for the customers, minimizes downtime and balances the shop resources to meet our fleet availability performance measure.
Efficiencies – Fleet Maintenance (more) showing: (1) Goals of this PM program – (1.1) Reduce unscheduled repairs and costs – (1.2) Absorb the 5% increased costs of maintenance
Efficiencies – Facilities Maintenance – showing: (1) Installed direct digital control thermostats and a building automation system – (2) Allows the building temperatures to be remotely regulated, via laptop PC at a constant energy efficient level – (3) Goals of this PM program – (3.1) Reduce related energy consumption and costs by 2 percent
Efficiencies – Fire Department – showing: (1) Telestaff/Agresso payroll interface – (2) Implemented an interface between Fire Department scheduling software Telestaff and Agresso payroll system – (3) Improved efficiencies: work hours saved and processes streamlined
Efficiencies – Fire Department (more) showing: (1) Fire RMS – (1.1) Implemented an interface between Telestaff and Fire RMS that allowed for automatic data entry, reducing the need of fire staff to manually re-enter data between the two systems – (1.2) Improved efficiencies: work hours saved and processes streamlined
Efficiencies – Fire Department (more) showing: (1) County EMS – (1.1) Assisted the county EMS agency in the implementation and support of VPN clients that allow paramedics to enter mandatory medical information into the county EMS system – (1.2) Improved efficiencies: work hours sage and processes streamlined
Efficiencies – Police Department – showing: (1) PremierOne increases ability to provide timely and proper response to emergency calls in the city – (2) When a 911 or other call for service is received in the city’s Command Center the data is immediately entered into the CAD system – (3) The system properly maps the location of the call and gives other critical information to responding officers and other emergency personnel – (4) Responding officers have access to critical safety and crime information while en route to the call
Efficiencies – Police Department (more) showing: (1) the CAD and MDC program was the beginning of a public safety software improvement program – (2) Once completed in 2011 the complete suite of the PremierOne system will be online including a records management system, RMS, and video integration system
The mayor responded to the presentation opening the council to questions – Council Member Weir spoke to say that it was "fabulous” that the city has gotten to this point in IT. She then proceeded to ask about building permits wanting to know if they were all online there might or might not be some sort of e-trail to show worthy inspection records within. A person will know where the paperwork is in the process, according to Staff. The councilwoman proceeded to ask whether or not an archival system will be instituted. The answer was in the affirmative. Document management in the city will be indexed in conjunction with the documents. The indexing system itself has yet to be addressed.
The councilwoman also wanted to know whether there were time savings that would result in reduced staff presence. The speaker said that staffing has been decreased ahead of the efficiencies in this particular case. The efficiencies are leading the process, in other words.
Council Member Morehouse desired some reassurance that in "electronic stuff” there are some redundancies. If something happened to the server here, it would be immediately available over the Internet one staff member said. The process is never-ending it was said. Council Member Morehouse went further asking if it was so integrated that Staff can be cross trained. The budget module will be turned on next week going to Staff and that a couple of power users will be available meaning that no department is dependent on a single person to do the work. A centralized "data house” is one of the techniques that have been implemented to obviate the problem of a superuser being relied upon to the exclusion of everyone else using the system.
The mayor yeilded the floor to Council Member Brennan who asked Jay to expound upon the planning commission's work asking, how the planning commission obtained its information with Jay replying that it was obtained electronically.
City manager Cole noted that the contrast between the packet of paper and John's iPAD, John prefers to work without a net and Jay would be the first to work with one underneath him. On a more serious note, Mr. Cole stated that the city embarked upon a remake of the city's IT infrastructure, noting that it was done for the reason that we were relying on a system that had been customized over a 25 year period, trying in the process to maintain a proprietary software package. The system is no longer supportable due to the fact that required hardware is now obsolete. We had no choice but to leap forward and embark upon moving into Web 2.0. Mr. Cole believed that citizens will no longer be required to show up with "rolls of paper.” It was his belief that we have made "light years” worth of progress.
Council Member Andrews directed toward Jay in response to the city manager, the comment that it is still necessary to maintain libraries and yet there are other challenges. The technology companies are accustomed to making things obsolete, along with corporate strategies for planned obsolescence. This is how they make money. "How do we avoid this?” was the question.
Staff replied that we will be maintaining SQL databases, and that the design will be compatible with Internet standards as well.
Mr. Jones spoke saying that he disagrees with Council Member Morehouse’s statement about redevelopment. The permitting process is covered, but that it does system were put in place in his city, the redevelopment agencies would had been turned into an influence peddling slush fund. Credit card receipts and the processing of other data would result in savings which then becomes a distribution method to other agencies which might better be used for redevelopment purposes.
Council Member Andrews asked to clarify whether Ventura has used its redevelopment funds in this way, with the speaker replying that a different city was indeed the subject of his comment.
Public Communications – First Monday, allowing public comment on non-agenda is items.
Bill Hardin spoke saying that the tidal wave of love [we are riding] should help us march forward into the future – Re: owning a home with a granny flat in 1991, a neighbor reported him and his second unit. He paid the standard double fees noting that the existing cooking stove is not allowed and should be removed. He believed that this is wrong. This should be removed from the code, he said. He believed that Cal-Trans and the Corps of Engineers should be held liable for the construction lapses with fences being removed yearly as a result of people breaching the access ways. He was against a tree ordinance being passed. Travelers Beach Motel has graffiti in evidence with no attempt at removal. Sign ordinance issues were also on his agenda. A clear view down Chestnut Street to the ocean should be allowed to remain. It was his view that tree trimming is not up to par. The MOU on the railroad crossing bridge is still uncompleted.
Laura Swenson, a rental property owner and a member of Ventura’s Safe Housing Collaborative, wished to thank the council for approval of recommendations involving second units. There are many still living in those units that are relieved by the council’s decision, she said. She herself would be moving forward in the amnesty program. She said that an elderly property owner approached her asking about the second unit amnesty program. They don't attend public meetings, typically so that public attention will not be drawn to their property. She thanked Andrew Stuffler and Sue Taylor.
John Jones noted that on March 27 at the Four Points hotel a volunteer research organization will host a fundraising event for the cure of childhood cancer, noting that last year at 2000 people attended with a net of $65,000. A number of firefighting teams are expected to be present.
Gene Stroud of the Elks Lodge noted that state gaming operations passed new laws for license holders in the Ventura area and similar locations. In order to reactivate a gaming license that has been surrendered, a stakeholder must have the approval of the council, the police chief and the fire chief who, on the whole, have no objection in following these guidelines or in having the license reactivated. The city council should assist us, he said, so that the Elks may reactivate their gaming license. Malcolm will speak on what must be done.
Malcolm Cornette, a member of the Ventura Elks noted that they are having financial problems and losing members. The license will help restore them to financial solvency. He noted the amount of money that is donated by the Elks to parades, to the police and to other civic organizations.
Grant Marco said that he has been a registered nurse for 25 years, saying that there is a crisis in the management of healthcare systems in California, noting also that as a health care professional he is bound by the oath to do no harm. Harm, he said, is being done because of the broken healthcare system. What is wrong with the system – why is it ranked 37th in the world? Americans pay twice for their healthcare and receive half as much in care as other industrial countries. A Harvard study showed that 44,000 Americans die annually because of lack of healthcare. He called it a medical Holocaust. Lack of healthcare is the second-largest cause of death in the US, according to the speaker. The problem is with the management of our healthcare system and insurance companies along with their overhead and profits. The CEOs of the top insurance companies earn enough in salary to pay for child care for every child in America on a yearly basis, he said. SB 810 is before the state assembly as we speak.
Helen Yunker spoke on the code enforcement program, bringing to the council's attention all the grandfathered nonconforming properties in the late 60s. There was no notice to the citizens or property owners in the Pierpont community as to their fate once ordinances were passed. On March 28, 1977 all nonconforming properties were grandfathered and assurances were given that the residents would not be "crucified.” She praised the efforts of many who were responsible in bringing the Pierpont community up to the current stellar example that it is today. Her problem was with the lack of emphasis on amnesty for existing nonconforming properties. Her claim was that Thomas Jefferson was against too much government.
Roselyn Strohbush also wished to thank the city council for its consideration and proactive stance in the development of the new work from Ventura’s Safe Housing Collaborative.
Need Realistic Third Remedy for Hard Times – showing: Current two remedies are not realistic: Tear it Down ~ Demolition Permit – (1) Counter Green philosophy and General Plan – (2) Money for Demolition Permit and haul-away costs could be used to improve property
Hire an Architect and Start from Scratch – (1) Thousands of dollars – (2) Architects reluctant
VSHC Compliance Recommendation Benefits – showing: (1) The economic benefit to the city is lower costs and more fee recovery – (2) Compliance with General Plan – (3) The benefit to the citizen is a higher property value due to a clean title – (4) Allows citizen compliance for an easy amnesty program
Recommended Elements – showing: (1) Modified perceived harsh enforcement guidance – (2) Limit inspections to permits requested – (3) Allows safety inspections to be performed by certified home safety inspectors and/or licensed contractors – (4) Licensed contractors should be able to certify installations with digital photography
Recommended Elements (more) showing: (5) Cap fines and penalties as recommended by Citizens Review Board – (6) Provide all remedies at first contact, including time payment plan – (7) Provide amnesty of penalties for those on citation lists in conjunction with affordable compliance program – (7.1) Six-month time limit for amnesty for those already assessed – (7.2) 50 percent reduction of penalties – (7.3) Time payment plans
Recommended Elements (more) showing: (8) Require compliance with State Civil Code 1941—(9) Charge permit fees in force at time of improvement – (10) Require safety inspection by either private or city inspectors as desired by property owner – (11) Require two signatures on neighborhood complaints to reduce frivolous use of code enforcement resources for neighborhood feuds; modify guidance accordingly
Steve Schlader spoke with a video showing a tombstone discovery in Woodland Hills, which was the subject of a live investigate report showing dark alleys and dumpsters along with the discovery of the tombstone belonging to James Sutton – 1835-1907. Later in the video Mr. Schlader appeared to be walking through areas of Ventura’s Cemetery Park and commenting that "these gravestones are popping up all over.” CBS2.com asked for the help of the public in locating any survivors of James Sutton. In the meantime, a pioneer of our county has had his headstone trashed, according to Mr. Schlader.
The status of the trestle bridge was a question asked of City Manager Cole, who answered saying that the city is in the process of getting full agreement from Caltrans and the Union Pacific Railroad to paint the bridge and keep the bridge free from graffiti. Mr. Cole was of the belief that the technical issues have been addressed and that the next challenge is to determine who will perform the work as well as who will pay for it. Agreements between the three disparate parties is not holding us up, according to the city manager, but rather the logistics of the painting and the security that will be required.
Council Member Monahan wished to have Ariel address the position on the gaming issue and that the city's position be made known. Ariel said that he doesn't have the authority to issue the letter since the city council has created a numeric limit on the number of tables that are available based on the needs of the Players Club. Mr. Monahan said that we would have to modify our ordinance, with the city attorney replying that we have no authority to add more tables. An agreement would have to be made with the Players Club to reduce their allocation. It was not known if we could appeal to the state for more tables but that there is a moratorium until 2015 which quite possibly could hold, according to Ariel.
Jay Panzika began the visual presentation, speaking of the national economy.
National Economy, Overall – showing: (1) National economy slowly recovering – (2) Most all economists and indications say – (2.1) The worst is behind us – (2.2) We have seen the bottom of the curve – (2.3) Unlikely that a double-dip will occur – (3) Positive indicators – (3.1) Personal income is rising – (3.2) Personal savings is rising – (3.3) Industrial production is rebounding well
National Economy, GDP – showing: (1) National gross domestic product up by 2% in the third quarter, versus 1.7% in the second quarter of 2010 – (2) However, the US economy is still smaller than it was when the recession began, and recovery is has been agonizingly slow – (3) Never since World War II has it taken so long to recover to pre-recession levels of GDP
[Comment] Personal savings is up, as shown in the second previous slide, and so is GDP but only marginally, that is if a 2% increase can be called marginal. Apparently this is the case since we’ve just been told that the recovery is "agonizingly slow.” And yet if we were talking about the strongest economy in Europe (Germany) these would be very acceptable numbers. Why? Because these are sustainable numbers and have proven themselves over time. Only in America has it been decided that GDP is lackluster at 5 or 6%, loving as we do the "bubbles” (housing, Internet, S & L). Our real problem results from a little too much of "the bubbly,” as we repeatedly wake up the next morning balancing ice packs on our heads. [Ed.]
National Economy, Investment – showing: (1) Business investment is solid – (2) Spending on equipment and software rose by double digits in the third quarter – (3) Investment in offices and other commercial buildings posted the first upturn after eight straight quarters of decline
National Economy, Downside – showing: (1) Economy will grow this year and next but slower than thought – (2) Significantly due to government and consumers spending less to pay down debt – (3) Little improvement in jobs, housing and the deficit
[Comment] Of course consumers will be spending less, because as you just said, they’ve begun to save more – just as they do in some of the strongest economies of the world (Germany, Japan, along with most of Asia and Europe). In fact, Americans have systematically been discouraged from saving by the money men in this country precisely because personal savings is considered a drag on economic growth – those big GDP numbers that Wall-streeters have become hooked on. Again, who understands this principle – (Germany, Japan, along with most of Asia and Europe). [Ed.]
National Economy, Downside (more) showing: (1) Other threats still exist – (1.1) Oil and gas prices rising – (1.2) Potential public-sector job losses – (1.3) Political gridlock in decision-making and budgeting balancing (1.1.1) Still no obvious "right” answer
[Comment] Incorrect. There are many "right” answers. The problem is that those interested in preserving the "trickle up" money machine are not interested in any of them. [Ed.]
State and Local Government Jobs – showing: (1) Private employment climbed for the 12th consecutive month in February – (2) However state government dropped 12,000 and local government lost 18,000 jobs – (3) Three states have cut 82,000 since August 8 and local government has lost 377,000 – (4) Fed government is up 99,000 since December 07. (This while we have lost 100 jobs in this city according to Mr. Panzika.)
State and Local Government Jobs (more) showing: – (5) Trend is likely to continue as states and cities keep trimming services and payrolls to balance their budgets – (6) Expectation is that 20,000 to 30,000 jobs per month will be lost through the remainder of the year (public sector)
California Economy – showing: (1) For the third quarter in a row CA experienced overall sales tax growth – (2) Led by department stores, apparel stores, new auto sales and service stations – (3) Statewide tax receipts grew by 3.9% – (4) Northern California tax receipts grew by 3.6% – (5) Southern California tax receipts grew by 3.6%
California Economy – showing: (1) State tax revenue is rising but remains below pre-recession levels – (2) Nearing the end of billions of dollars of federal stimulus funding that helped in previous years – (3) Unlikely that Sacramento can fill this gap
Local Economy – showing: – (1) Municipal governments typically lagged behind the larger economy – (1.1) Timing of cash flow – (1.2) Smaller base – (2) Especially in property tax and sales tax – (3) 49% of general fund budget
Local Economy (more) showing: (1) Latest data shows our quarterly year-over-year sales tax cash receipts are improving
Local Economy (more) showing: Sales tax net cash receipts quarter calendar year over year. The following table showed quarters ’09 – ’08, and quarters ’10 – ’09. In March of 09 sales tax was flat. In September 09 we had had our bottom, which was the same time as the government having declared the recession as being over. For the past three quarters we have had positive numbers, +1.5%, +2%, and +1.8%
Local economy (more) showing: Sales tax net cash receipts quarter year-over-year – (1) Cash received fourth-quarter 2010 – (1.1) Net 3rd Quarter 2010 cash receipts 4,494,591 – (1.2) Net 3rd Quarter 2009 cash receipts $4,414,197 – (1.3) Sales tax up by +1.8%
Last Year Vs This Year – showing: Figures for transportation up 4.5% through food products off 3.4% as shown in the graphic. Mr Panzika characterized the trendlines as "a dramatic turnaround."
Local economy (more) showing: (1) These are encouraging signs – (2) However we are a long way from returning to our previous revenue levels of just a few years ago – (1.1) Same as national situation – (1.2) Same as state situation
(Chart) General Fund Historical Spending Levels, indicating expenses for each year beginning 2006 – 2007 with an $85 million general budget we had $11 million gap, down the following year to a $7.7 million gap leaving this year a one half million dollar gap. The speaker believed that this is still a significant amount.
Some History – showing: (1) FY 2009 – 10 revenue forecast identified at $11.4 million gap – (2) FY 2010 – 11 revenue forecast identified a $7.7 mil gap – (3) "Budgeting for Outcomes" effort was used to focus on "what matters most"
Some history (more) showing: (1) Council made the appropriate, but difficult decisions to reduce expenses in order to allow Ventura to live within its means – (2) This put Ventura in the fiscally prudent position that it is in today
Next Year – FY 2011 – 12 showing: (1) Our projected shortfall is not $11 million or $7 million – (2) We are looking at $500,000
Major Revenue Changes – showing: Sales tax $806,000 (up) – Property Tax $51,000 (down) – UUT, Interest Income, etc. $450,000 (down) –VLF $413,000 (down) – Players Club $250,000 (up) – Updated Cost Allocation $434,000 (up) – Resetting of Fleet Rates $500,000 (up)
Major Expense Changes – showing: PERS Rates $1,200,000 (up) – Employee Labor Savings $1,100,000 (down) – Estimated Fire Labor Savings $200,000 (down) – Reset Workers Compensation Rates $1,500,000 (up) – Increased Debt Payments $186,000 (up) – Recognized Vacancy Factor $500,000 (down)
Next Year – FY 2011 – 12 showing: (1) On an ongoing basis – (1.1) Our goal is to submit and maintain a balanced budget – (1,2) As new information is made available, over the course of the year, we will come back to Council to allow for appropriate changes being implemented
Three Options to Submitting a Balanced Budget – showing: (1) Reduce costs – (2) Use one-time money – (3) Combination of these two. One-time money is money that is in the reserve or in a bank allocated for something else but that we can take from that source. This can only be done once because there's no revenue to be replaced.
Three Options to Balance – showing: (1) Option one: Reduce Costs – (1.1) Determine where we can eliminate, reduce or restructure – (1.2) All reductions have consequences – (1.3) May be sustainable, depending on changes implemented – (1.4) Helps with the eventual restoration of services
Examples of Cost Reductions – showing: Eliminate Labor Attorney $25,000 – Reduce PD Uniform Expense $12,000 – Subcontract Land Development Plan Chk $104,000 – Storm Water Drainage Repair $100,000 – Reduce Finance Staff $133,000 – Eliminate Green Sustain. Prgms $36,000 – Close 9 Neighborhood Park Restrooms
Three Options to Balance – showing: (1) Option 2: Use One-Time Money – (1.1) Determine where we can get funds internally – (1.2) All sources have consequences – (1.3) Not sustainable in the long term – (1.4) No meaningful revenue increases forecast for the next few years to repay the one-time source – (1.5) Wil1 not be able to restore services – (1.6) PERS costs will be rising for next couple of years
Examples of One-Time Money – showing: Jobs Investment Fund (GF) $3 million – Westside Pool (Fund 18) $1.27 million – Fleet ISF (Fund 64) $1 million – Portobello Fund $937,000 – Housing Preservation Fund (GF) $592,000
Three Options to Balance – showing: (1) Option 3: Some Combination of Options 1 and 2 – (1.1) Moderates the extremes of either option – (1.2) Offers more flexibility
Public Communications – Miguel Rodriguez spoke saying, "Good evening, My name is Miguel Rodriguez, and I'm a Ventura resident, council-members after reading the administrative report which suggests closing public restrooms at neighborhood parks to save money, I'm not surprised that one of the suggestions for a one time source of revenue for the general fund is pocketing the money from the west side pool which seems to be the most feasible alternative which will yield the least amount of adverse publicity. Building the pool for $9 million in collaboration with the school district is not the only option to get this project off the ground. There are other alternatives that can be considered before the city rejects the plan altogether. The city of Cuyama in Santa Barbara County has built a pool for less than $2.5 million dollars, we asked their development board to let us know what the costs to complete phase 1 of the new Cuyama community center and they provided us with information; the construction included a deck,a restroom building and the total expenditures for the project were $2,402.00, I will submit that to whoever is in charge, and I would also like to let you know that if such a decision is to be made for or against the project of building the west side community pool, options should be analyzed thoroughly. That money belongs to the west side community and if indeed the city is going to take that money it should remain for other projects in the west side community. And looking at the charts, I support that we cut in fleets because I believe that there is enough traffic out there. "
Sharon Troll spoke concerning the Westside pool saying that she has grown old telling people that they would have a pool – some of these now in their 20s. It was her belief that the pool is a very important part of a community with children not being able to travel out of the neighborhood. The money was a gift from the city and the school district. She had faith that when she was told the money would come back that it would be returned. She stated that you have "hurt a community" when you pry it from its promise to the citizens but don't follow through. She stated that she "just can't believe" that we are in jeopardy of losing this. She promised greater public demonstration and outreach in the future.
Marie Laika, Vice Chair of the city's Cultural Affairs Commission and a Director on the Visitors & Convention Bureau Board spoke on the elimination of the cultural funding program. She has been in front of the council concerning on the arts and businesses community, having served on the panel that administers these grants, and has seen what these grants do for our community. The cuts have affected her personally and her children, she said. She serves on the marketing committee for the new citizen run/art walk. Last weekend she was on the sidewalk asking for support for not cutting teachers. She wanted to know more about the $3 million award of contract to the outside firm for jobs generation. She wished to bring up the issue of the firefighters and their contract noting that this is worrisome for East side residents. She urged citizens to volunteer to help pick up the slack until the economy recovers.
Dickey Petita with the newly elected rat commission, also requested that the pool money not be appropriated. They can have their luxurious pool on the East side, said the speaker. He claimed that kids on the Westside are humble and would be happy with almost anything in the way of a pool. He claimed that any money not used for the Westside pool should remain in the Westside.
[Comment] Kinda chokes you up, doesn't it? [Ed.]
Cheryl Heitman, the Ventura Music Festival Director, wished to thank the council for their continued support of the arts. The cutback on the cultural arts funding was her main concern. She requested that Council begin looking at the groups which actually bring money back into the city, and that cultural tourism is a major generator of funds. We sustain between 60 and 100 jobs in the arts community, she said. She noted that arts organizations go into the community – to the schools, which continue to be a vital source of concern and interest to the arts community.
Gary Semowicz as a homeowner in the Ventura Keys noted that the rains cause flooding over the sidewalks. His concern was for the money over the dredging which has created an issue over the drainage from the accumulated silt that clogs storm drainage pipes in the Keys neighborhood. Soon, he feared, storm water drainage will begin flooding homes, causing millions of dollars worth of damage.
David Witham was opposed to the use of the Portobello funds which have been set aside dredging in the harbor, and that these funds not be used for operating expenses. In other organizations the speaker was familiar with, reserves are used for extraordinary circumstances and not as operating capital. The area needs to be dredged every 10 years, but 12 years have passed. The city and county drainage into the harbor means that dredging is essential, according to the speaker.
David Armstrong spoke noting that this has been a discussion about uses and not sources. He said that PILOT funds would be an important source of funding for schools and that consideration was made in a different time but that the PILOT fund decision should be reconsidered. More properties have been taken off the tax rolls than in any other period of time, and that affordable housing has been one of the factors leading to this reduction. We need to be reintroducing PILOT funds payment in lieu of taxes from the Housing Authority, which, as put in by the mayor, the council discussed a few years ago as the source of a housing trust fund earmarked for affordable housing.
The mayor asked Mr. Cole whether there was a timetable for the dredging. The city manager said that we coordinate with the port district. We don't expect to do it in the foreseeable future was one answer. It would be necessary to go on a sharing basis with the district for cost effectiveness.
Council Member Monahan said that this would be an opportunity to go in and dredge the catch basins were the silt actually builds up. The port district's portion in the adjoining area would help maintain the catch basins clear, and thus keep the Key’s lanes open.
The mayor said that we have agreed to not use one-time money, and that real cuts would lead to a real balanced-budget. Almost without exception we have managed to avoid this procedure.
Turning back to Jay, it should be clear that prioritized approach for balancing the budget is being sought, said the speaker. The final outcome is not to ask for specific decisions or what type one-time resources should be realized, instead the city manager is looking for Council guidance on which option to emphasize.
Council Member Morehouse asked Staff’s awareness over the fact that our cycle is not quite the same as the state's cycle, but that we are dealing with something that must be done now. What is our next opportunity for adjustments, the councilman asked, and are we stuck through June 30 to July 1 for changing the budget? – his question. Jay said that we can change that on any Monday night. The councilman brought up a couple of things shown on the list, but upon asking whether to proceed, was informed that these were shown as examples and not to be used as a decision point according to the mayor. The councilman still wished to know what would be the effect of suspending things rather than eliminating them. Jay said by not filling a position for a year, for example, it being said that it helps the budget for one more year but then you have postponed the decision only for the year. We can unfunded or de-fund anything for a year according to Jay.
The mayor stated that he assumed all further questions would be about either the budget or the process. Council Member Andrews noted that his question was close to Mr. Morehouse first question, that if we were making midyear adjustments this year, which could save the $500,000 would then allow for the balancing 2011 budget. Jay said Staff would not be seeking mid-year adjustments in order to balance the budget this year.
Council Member Weir asked if TOT was part of the projection, with Mr. Cole saying that it was lumped in with the Utility Users tax, which was down by $437,000. The sales tax revenue that we're basing this on would be on, and received by, December 10. We don't actually have a feeling for how some of the holiday sales taxes have fleshed out. The councilwoman mentioned PILOT funds, but Jay said a budget should be built on things we know for sure and that discussion points don't generally build into the base. As for the increase of 1.8% sales tax December-over-December, the mayor wished to know if the figure was estimated or actual. Jay said that this was actual for the third quarter, and that we do not yet have actuals for the fourth.
Council Member Monahan asked Council when we expect to see more property tax dollars, with Staff saying that that's the $64,000 question. There is no meaningful change in that for the next couple of years according to Staff, remaining flat this year and flat next year. The public needs to be made aware, according to Mr. Monahan, that we will be working without those dollars, with Staff concurring.
Jenny, as Staff Human Resources Director for the city, was to act as a facilitator to walk the council through a workshop discussion on what they’d learned and to give the city manager some direction.
Two Goals for the Facilitated Discussion, showing: Goal 1 – Provide the city’s manager with Council policy on achieving budget priorities and objectives; Goal 2 – Provide the city's manager with Council policy on budget preparation options emphasis
Facilitated Discussion, showing: Discussion topics: Part 1 – (1) What does each Council member hope to achieve through the budget process? – (2) Why is/are the stated achievement(s) important?
Staff asked council members to speak to the things that are important to each with the speaker standing before easels and a marker.
Council Member Brennan was asked for his answers to these two questions. Service cuts – maintaining service levels are of broad importance that he doesn't see them going down, rather that they should be increased wherever possible. Reserves and one-time sources could be looked at when it comes back in April, he said.
Council Member Weir said that what she hoped to achieve was to identify opportunities for ongoing savings. We should be thinking about what would impact the public the least when discussing cuts. The dedication of revenue enhancement policies should be part of the budget discussion. She stated that the council has the obligation to use the public's money wisely.
Council Member Morehouse wished to minimize further cuts to service levels, with sticking to core functions as a priority. Why is this important was questioned, and the answer, according to the councilman, is that these are the visible things – the things people state. There's more below the iceberg he said than above. The funds should be targeted and not to do that which is going into one-time revenue sources.
Council Member Andrews thought we had already cut too much in some areas and is not prepared support further cuts in those areas. Though there are a few, he said later. He said he agreed with Ms. Weir in getting a balanced budget that does least damage to the community while offering the greatest hope and opportunity for the future. He strongly opposes cuts that endanger our ability to generate future revenues. He felt it is not appropriate generally to appropriate reserves. Staff should be able to identify current reserve levels that are in excess of the prospective need for the reserve. He supports dealing with the budget on the basis of continuing evidence and applying continuing expenses to those revenues, not supporting the use of one-time funds.
Council Member Andrews felt that the council failed the public in its efforts on labor negotiations. It failed to secure the reductions and benefits "in the most appropriate place" which is the largest source for $500,000 which is essentially a small amount of money which was "given away" in his words, in those negotiations, and a loser in an arrangement that was touted as a victory.
[Comment] "The most appropriate place," as just said, would then be – sadly enough – over the backs of heroes. Something needs to be done about this mindset, and we urge every voter to copy these words and take them into the voting booth this next election cycle. With statements such as these having been verbalized and acted upon, no citizen of this city is being served responsibly. It’s time to get out the vote, and get this councilman out as well. [Ed.]
Council Member Monahan felt that it should be a prioritization effort outlining our responsibilities without the fluff along the way. He said we should seriously consider the sale of unneeded or surplus city property, noting that this is a one-time affair but that small parcels that are scattered throughout the city, not "the 87 acres." He thought we need to enhance the business climate within the city. It was his belief that we could expedite Wal-Mart's process and getting them online provide jobs. The Wal-Mart effort would be worth $1 million a year according to the councilman that is otherwise coming out of our pockets. He thought we need a faster way to generate money and that the parking meter effort was not needed, believing also that we will be removing them quite soon.
[Comment] Here it is again. We wouldn’t want to inconvenience our citizenry over parking fees, but we’d have no compunction whatever in fleecing the last ounce of financial security away from someone who might one day actually save either your life or the lives of your loved ones. There is a sickness brewing in this country, and it’s emanating from the places where people are enjoying the good life – O.C., Santa Barbara and yes, even parts of Ventura. In the O.C. however, parking fees wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans, so it should be obvious that folks hereabouts are not really on the same side of the tracks. Folks hereabouts should probably be questioning their core political beliefs and wondering if living la dolce vida is really of their own making, but instead coming at the expense of those living la vida nada. [Ed.]
Council Member Tracy noted that balanced-budget will occur eventually. It was his number one hope that this would result in a closer introspection while prioritizing the core services, giving priority to the most necessary. Becoming more efficient and smart in the ways we "do that" seemed to rise to the top of his list. As a group with city departments, he said we become as cooperative as we can by sharing resources – that we look into solving community problems by sharing between departments, by looking to community development for code enforcement, and yet other departments are engaged with the public who can observe code violations as we utilize our new computer system to identify and track problems. He would not support the use of reserve funds unless was for programs that would in the long term result in higher productivity. It was his belief that monies can be used as investments with higher returns at the end. It was his belief also that the council did a very fine job in its labor negotiations. He felt it getting some concessions put us on the leading edge. He took issue with Mr. Andrews in this area.
The mayor noted that we had pushed the envelope on labor negotiations. The Chamber of Commerce notes that we have improved our development process. A balanced budget is final the mayor said along with maintaining our current levels of public safety and the public realm – parks. Dipping into reserves for one-time money should be avoided according to the mayor. A one-time investment that could demonstrate lower operating costs could lead to support of one-time funds.
Council Member Monahan wished to ask staff of policies on the underground pipeline system that is the property of various entities – oil companies etc. Are we getting what we should be getting from those facilities was questioned. Mr. Cole said periodically we update those franchise agreements. We have had success in terms of reaching a mutual agreement with the largest of these. We remain deadlocked with Era Energy however over what we think is the fair market value of the infrastructure. Some are more minor than others. We are undertaking the effort but it is not the highest priority. Not a lot of progress has been made. Era energy is not been very forthcoming, according to Mr. Cole.
Mr. Monahan went further asking if this is not a method for obtaining revenues. The councilman also said that along with the tube street repairs there are sewer lines that need to be replaced before we do paving. Do we require that utility companies improve their pipelines was another question. What is the policy when we look at our own utilities and we must improve, but the gas line that is there also may or may not be.
Mr. Raives will be coming up to speak on the subject, stating that there are meetings with utility companies in advance. Council Member Monahan wanted to know what assurances we have that those lines are safe. One project blew up according to the councilman. Mr. Cole noted that anything could happen anywhere but what happened in San Bruno under a different utility and what is likely to happen in association with Ventura Southern California Gas company is quite different with a different track record and a different level of partnership with local government. Without blanket assurances having been given, Mr. Cole said that we had met face-to-face with Southern California Gas to review their safety procedures. This is much different than PG&E.
Jenny said that they could move on to part two of the discussion. One was reducing costs; the other was the use of one-time money and that there was a combination of those to consider. A different sheet for each option – feedback from the council was requested and to consider what each would see in the pros and cons of using more than one of these options.
The mayor said that the pros and cons of reducing costs is the most prudent way to sustainability in the budget – the con is that we might have to cut items that we might not want to cut. Using one-time money – the pro-is that it's not necessary to cut services immediately with the con being that the future remains unaddressed. Some combination of the both would be the easiest way to spread the pain.
Deputy Mayor Tracy felt that there are only so many ways to say the same thing. We avoid introspection.
Council Member Monahan thought that it was difficult to prioritize options without knowing how you are going to run the city. It was his feeling that we need to increase business and bring in more money.
Council Member Andrews agreed with the mayor's assessment of the pros and cons, emphasizing that one-time money does not solve the fundamental problems. He was much more inclined to look at number one in the short term, but while agreeing with doing our best at making reductions in the short-term we should not overlook methods for increasing business and enhancing revenue streams. In terms of cuts – those that he could not support would be the farm water cuts, limiting cultural grants, lifeguards and closing restrooms. On the one time funds he would not reduce public utility liability, use Westside pool funds, raid the Portobello reserves nor the housing preservation reserves.
Council Member Morehouse stood in agreement with the mayor but wondered at the chances of Staff for the execution of using one time funds. The chances of replenishing one-time funds according to Mr. Cole would be "largely a shell game." The city manager said that it is not his recommendation that we take money out of one-time funds such as the Portobello for dredging. Instead one-time money as an investment could be taken from areas were there is lower risk for punishment i.e. that we could operate with a lower level of reserve coverage. This would be the utility funds – at once identified as much as $750.000-$1 million which might be removed on a permanent basis. The estimate could be $250,000, but once gone it cannot be used again. If we had additional revenue, the city manager said he wouldn't put it back in reserves but would use it for replenishing cuts that are not sustainable over the long term.
Council Member Morehouse continued with his second question showed a reduction in services, what are you looking at? Mr. Cole said that a list of cuts in every administration report says that this is not a final are fully analyze cited recommendations. Good ideas are always are rarely hit on the nose the first time out. This represents an order of priority as such – eliminate our labor negotiation attorney at a reduction of $25,000 – $12,000 for uniforms – eliminating a building inspector makes sense due to the fact that inspections are down. We are talking about the elimination of institutional memory and quality control if the economy picks up and we begin doing more inspections. Third-party building inspectors can become part of a "revolving door" depending on the state of the economy, according to Mr. Cole.
Council Member Morehouse would have difficulty with cutting back on storm water, and does a graffiti response elimination program make much sense? – but in terms of reducing costs on this menu, the one-time money would lead him through the combination option – number three. The housing preservation may be something we could tap into. The councilman didn't disagree with seeking new revenue, but noted that we should continue to look for other existing revenue sources.
Council Member Weir said that the pro-number one would be that the budget remains healthy with the con being making choices between popular cuts. But number two is one-time money being an immediate solution is that it's borrowing against what we promised. The number three option, she said, makes sense because it's more flexible. There hasn't been an exercise in examining all of the reserves, noting that the exercise itself is valuable. The cons of each should be assessed based on each option or the particular reserve. As a comment she thought that spring will be holding some good news in terms of tax revenues..
Council Member Brennan felt that the utilities and the historical demands on those reserves such as every 10 years because of dredging and then the upgrade because of the lapse of time. Number three a combination of options appealed to him. We are trying to balance this year's budget he said. While it's a little unsettling he said one-time money made get us where we need to go. He would leave it in the hands of Staff to consider the historical nature of the facilities such as public restrooms and lifeguards.
The mayor asked Rick Cole to respond, speaking for the department head team who will helping to put the budget together and will be responsible for the results. We are operating with 100 fewer people but trying to do as much in this preceding two years. He thought we will have to further reduce popular programs and lower priority internal overhead expenses. Though we are investing and business growth and the economy will be recovering, there are things we will be putting ahead of what we are doing even as new revenue comes in – one of these being public safety. We will have to deal with capital changes, noting that a time limit exists on infrastructure. The city manager thought that the use of some combination of resources would be the most viable option noting the times that we've been through with moving divisions, consolidating functions in labor negotiations while asking people to join in this third of collaboration even as there would appear to be less in the way of gain.
Summary adjustment and realignment of our reserve policy that is fiscally prudent would be the way to buy us a little bit of time to make the changes, said Mr. Cole. How quickly we can make them is a legitimate question. There is a limit to the pace, however, according to Mr. Cole.
The mayor said that if there were anything else he was requesting of the council it would be a motion on which of the three options they prefer, and if there is not a majority or if there is some other way of attacking the budget, Mr. Cole would take direction from the council based on the motion. If the council is prepared to give policy direction, said Mr. Cole, he is prepared to receive it.
Ariel weighed in noting that the charter requires the manager to use his independent budget, noting that they are not directing the city manager as stated by the mayor. Mr. Cole said that a motion tonight would set the policy that would act as guidance for Staff. Ms. Weir proposed that the council expresses favor for item number three with the addition of asking Staff to return with revenue enhancement options such as PILOT fees. The motion was seconded. The mayor asked for a call of the roll. All members voted yes with the exception of Deputy Mayor Tracy, who voted no.
There were no more cards for public communications on item number one. And with no further items under discussion from the council, the mayor adjourned the meeting in memory of Jim Johnston.