** UPDATE 6/8/11. Budget Public Hearing / Council Meeting Review **
BWP Rate Hikes approved (4-1)…without them they’d be insolvent according to BWP GM Ron Davis & Bonnie Teaford. At least they voted 4-0 not to Appeal the Burbank Leader’s Bonus Lawsuit victory, so we should be getting some numbers soon. They also voted 3-1 (Golonski – NO) to “suspend” their Merit-Pay program but it’s not dead and could be brought back. Also their salary freeze is actually a salary-range freeze; employees can still get pay raises if they’re not at the top of their range. Funniest LOL moment was when Dr. Gordon asked CM Mike Flad repeatedly how much we’d payed out in those pay raises to BWP GM & a few of his Sr. Mgm’t and Flad couldn’t/wouldn’t answer him…”don’t have the figure off-hand…we’ll get that to you” etc. It know it’s about $100k from last years Staff Report and that doesn’t include their Bonuses (they can get up-to 10% of their salary).
Lot’s of discussion on the $Million Dollar DeBell Golf Course bailout. So there’s no indication of trouble, then they come before the Park & Rec. Board in May with an urgent need but refuse to provide them with copies of contracts or financials so they can determine how this happened and now want a bailout? Last night Dr. Gordon asks for an independent audit but Emily Gabel-Luddy says we don’t need that (too expensive). So he asks for Financials with itemized expenses and Dave Golonski says he’s seen the numbers, they’re on a bunch of different papers that no other Council member has seen, and proposes a $1 Million Loan instead of the requested $2 Million (wise decision IMO) with monthly oversight via a Sub-Committee made up of 2 Council & 2 Park & Rec Board members. This was after he blamed the Park & Rec. Board for not rasing a red flag, which drew this immediate response from former Board Chair Steven Ferguson.
The $1 Million Loan appears to have been approved with no Profit/Loss Statement based on projections in a Power-Point Presentation. Another $1 Million is also being set aside and loan repayments on their existing $2.1 Million Dollar Loan will be deferred. Daste blames their current $718k deficit on the loss of earned interest (very foreseeable), Capital depreciation (refuted by City’s Finance Director as it’s not part of their Cash Flow problem), BWP Water Rate hikes (refuted earlier by Ron Davis) and the Tiger Woods sex-scandal for the downturn. And yes the bad Economy which has lead to a dramatic drop in the number of rounds of golf played (we get that). He can’t answer a question without consulting his Staff, tried to throw Jan Bartollo who apparently manages the Funds under the bus, before finally manning-up and admitting he screwed up (thank you Chris!). A nervous looking Scott Scozzola (DeBell Dir. of Golf) is there but isn’t asked a single question by any Council member. They decide to raise fees 8% (but they’re still very competitive compared to other local courses according to avid golfer Gary Bric), and say they’re going to cut Scozzola’s contract, the Concessionary & Course Maintenance by 10% and get RFP bids when their contracts expire. If you get the chance, watch the replay on Granicus…it’s a classic! And to think this Mr. Daste apparently gets an automatic $1,000/month bonus per his contract for just doing his job “satisfactorily” (thanks Mike Flad). Poor management, lack of oversight, no transparency re Financials, lots of excuses & blame-shifting…very embarrassing stuff guys. Of course this all happened around Midnight so no-one could see it unfold. As we own the Golf Course I agree we need to save this valuable asset, but we should not reward incompetency. Someone (or perhaps 2) should be fired! And has it ever occurred to anyone that lowering fees could actually increase revenue as it would encourage more people to play more often during these tough economic times? I can tell you we go less to the Starlight Bowl since they increased the admission and changed out their Concessionary from Handy Market to the more expensive BJ’s. How about some thinking outside of the box.
Finally Re the Outscourcing our Crossing Guards; We should rescind the above referenced BWP Pay raises and use that money for our Crossing Guards healthcare & pension benefits. It’s always the little guys who get screwed while Sr. Mgm’t rake in the big bucks & bonuses. And let’s get rid of that silly $5 Cat License…what’s next a Gold Fish Tax?
My Letter to the Burbank City Council
Dear Burbank City Council members & Staff,
Below are my comments re the 2011/12 Budget & proposed Fee increases:
1. I strongly OPPOSE the proposed Rate increases for Water, Sewer & Refuse Services. Last year the Council majority approved a 13.5% Water Rate hike, almost double what Los Angeles County & Glendale passed onto their customers, and then weeks later approved a 21% pay increase for BWP GM Ron Davis (7% per year for 3 years) and 7-11% increases for other Sr. BWP Management, at the cost of approx. $100,000 per year to Burbank residents. These rate increases have caused financial hardships for many as you know. In fact, I recently learned our public golf course now needs a $2 Million bailout in part because of these water rate increases. We simply cannot afford to pay these escalating rates. Instead of raising rates I propose 1-5% pay cuts for all Sr. BWP Management or other reductions in operating costs that would eliminate the need for these rate increases. I’m also baffled by the massive 8% increase in Refuse services; We seem to pay considerably more than other cities for these services and I do not accept the excuses given by Staff in a recent Burbank Leader story (gas prices) when all our Refuse Collection Vehicles are CNG powered. BWP needs to cut costs period and the outrageous pay raises handed out last year need to be rescinded. If possible, perhaps we could offset these rate increases using funds from the $6 Million BWP Loan repayment received recently.
2. I SUPPORT the termination of the City’s Merit Pay program. As I’ve weighed in on this issue before I’m not going to repeat myself…just end it now! I OPPOSE the expenditure of any more taxpayers money on a frivolous appeal with respect to the related Burbank Leader “Public Records” lawsuit and that ask that you comply with the Judge’s order immediately.
3. I OPPOSE cuts in City Services (esp. Library, Park & Rec.) including those to various Youth & Senior programs that have come before you over the past few months (Got Wheels etc.), as well as the wonderful Community organizations (Rose Parade, Food Baskets etc.) who do great work in our City above the 5% threshold Management set for all City Departments. Instead I propose scaled pay cuts of 1-5% for all Burbank Public Employee’s making over $100,000/year to help continue these valuable programs & services. Perhaps one-time funds from the $11 Million Redevelopment Agency Loan repayment could also be used to sustain these critical services.
4. I OPPOSE what appears to be a blank check given to the City Attorney’s Office with respect to ongoing Burbank Police Dept. & other Labor related Litigation. Millions of taxpayers dollars have been spent without a full accounting, money that could have gone towards funding the abovementioned services/programs. Moreover, it appears we’re in a worse position now than 12 months ago, with 16 cases of “anticipated litigation” pending. Despite this most of the people overseeing this “mess” still remain employed. It’s time to treat the root cause and end the expenditures of millions to fix our mistakes. These matters should never have escalated to this point!
5. I SUPPORT negotiations that would require all City Labor groups and their members to pay their share of PERS. We cannot continue to kick the can down the road and ignore the largest single contributing factor to our ongoing budget deficits. You cannot continue to ask City Departments to cut 5% of their Budgets every year; They’ve largely trimmed the fat and they’re at the bone already…There’s nothing left to cut except wages & benefits. They either pay their share or you start cutting salaries, instituting furloughs and laying off workers. These are tough decisions but necessary. I pray you have the courage to do what’s needed in making fiscal responsible decisions in the long term best interests of the people of Burbank (not the Unions).
– LINKS –
Steven Ferguson email to Dave Golonski
Burbank Leader – City Approves $2M Loan | Editorial
Burbank Leader – City Outsources Crossing Guards