March 11, 2010

It’s Only Money, Honey (You Got It, I Want It)

By Liz Altieri

“The Proposed Budget is premised on the long-term budget philosophy of the City Council and Redevelopment Agency. This budget philosophy includes the following major principles, which are elaborated below:

… Current year expenditures should be supported by current year revenues. One time revenues should not be used for ongoing costs, but should instead be used for necessary one-time expenditures or to strengthen fund reserves …

… The operating costs of any planned capital improvement should be estimated in the planning stage, so that these amounts can be recognized and budgeted.”

Patrick O’Keeffe, City Manager
Budget Presentation to the City Council

April 30, 2008

So what happened? How could the City of Emeryville need $1.2 million per year in a new special assessment for lights and park maintenance (LLAD)? In fact, the City did budget for these expenses – but with this new tax, those funds can be moved to fill another hole.

The problem is not so much that revenues are down from projections. Even if projections had been attained there would still be a “structural imbalance”. This new $1.2 million is merely a band-aid on a gaping wound caused by built-in skyrocketing employee expenses versus a revenue base that even in the good times can only grow so much.

Say that again? Even if revenues had attained projections there would still be a future shortfall.

The City has a remaining “rainy day fund” of about $3.8 million; they dipped into it for the current fiscal year’s “structural imbalance” to the tune of about $780,000.

So what’s a mother to do? You spend more than you take home. You still have savings in the bank. You need to buy time to work out a new plan – learn a new skill, take a second job, figure out how you are going to make the next payment. YOU USE YOUR SAVINGS. Yes, savings will run out. But it is a lot harder to renegotiate that mortgage with the bank when you have enough funds to pay it for the next year and a half. THE TAXPAYERS ARE THE CITY’S BANK.

But “we have too great an investment in this infrastructure to let it go to the dogs” [paraphrasing Councilmember Nora Davis at the Feb. 16, 2010 Council Meeting].

When asked how much of the $1.2 million would go to “light bulbs and sod”, the Finance Director replied “about 30%” – that’s $360,000. The rest is labor. Well, here is a novel idea: Will the neighbors really let the parks get overgrown? How about “Adopt a Park”? Volunteer to pick up litter, mow the lawn, and empty garbage cans. Better yet, organize students from the schools to help – maybe for community service credits?

We don’t need to be threatened by City Hall. We don’t need to pay for their unsustainable expense curve. Use the rainy day fund for one more year (hello…it’s raining), and sharpen your pencils. Cut staff payroll, shut down City Hall one day a month. You know this LLAD is just a band-aid – we are not STUPID.

On March 16, the Council will vote on whether or not to go forward with this new tax. They will have the ballots printed and “information letters” ready to explain to the complacent public the dire consequences of failure to cough up more tax dollars. They are in quite a rush to get this done – their time table shows pushing out the ballot just days after the vote, and ballot tabulations mere weeks afterwards in order to slap this assessment on the County rolls in time for the December tax collections.

City Hall appears to have great confidence that even if Joe and Jane Public say “No”, the business owners will carry the day. Get proactive – send a letter (or e-mail) to Wareham , Bay Street , Pixar, and Novartis – ask them to stand up to a fiscally irresponsible City government and make THEM fix this problem without further public subsidy.

Nobody wants more taxes right now. These times are too dire. Everybody should want this government to quit whining, put their hands back in their pockets, and tighten their belts. On this issue, both businesses and residents can unite.

It’s real easy to spend other people’s money.

Liz Altieri and her husband have lived in Emeryville for the past seven years, and own their Watergate residence. Liz has worked in Emeryville since 1997. She is currently studying for her real estate license and working with All Emeryville Properties as a broker’s assistant. Liz is an emeritus Board member of the Emeryville Chamber of Commerce, and has been a member of the General Plan Steering Committee since its inception.

7 Responses to OPINION

  1. Anonymous on March 11, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    If you really want to raise the revenue, rescind the moratorium on taxing business profits.

    Instead of taking on the multi-million dollar business we have in emeryville, where the net impact may be the CEO MIGHT not get to a buy a new Ferrari this year, you AGAIN, go after the little guy, the municipal employees who get paid SH*T, and losing their jobs means not being able to put food on the table for their children.

    You and other like you in Emeryville make it clear the city council is here to serve big business, and screw everyone else.

  2. Anonymous on March 12, 2010 at 2:40 am

    I agree with some of what she says but I think she's a union hater.

  3. Anonymous on March 13, 2010 at 6:23 pm


    The city has been more than generous to the business community: developers, large companies, such a Disney's Pixar ET AL. And that is not even exploring the Redevelopment boon for bankers, bond brokers, attorneys, consultants and of course developers. A question you might want to ask yourself is why are businesses in Emeryville only paying 70% taxes when they have 80%of the land use? There is something unhealthy in this new world-RR thinking that only attacks city workers or any one connected to government. The answer to our collective problems might include some corporate social and equitable responsibility.

  4. Anonymous on March 14, 2010 at 6:20 am

    I don't think you guys should be giving Liz Alteiri a platform.

  5. Anonymous on March 16, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Sorry, Liz. I couldn't disagree with you more. I'd rather contact Pixar, et al, to have them step up to the plate and give back.

  6. Anonymous on March 25, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    It's real easy to crap on hard working people.

  7. Anonymous on April 3, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Don't balance the shortfall on the backs of the workers, they are the ones keeping this town safe, not only Police and Fire but public works staff too

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Upcoming Events

  • No events.

Event Calendar

August 2020

RSS The Emeryville Tattler

  • 'Vargas Era' Ends: School Board Member Cruz Vargas Announces He's Leaving Emeryville August 9, 2020
     Pet Issue, Police in Schools, Likely Dies With Vargas' DepartureLeaving EmerySchool Board Member Cruz VargasEmery School District School Board incumbent Cruz Vargas announced this week he is moving out of Emeryville and will not seek another term on the Board, marking the end of a pugnacious career for the school board firebrand and his style of imprud […]