Council Candidates: What would you vote for to lower Seal Beach’s expenses?

0
483

Robert Aguilar: District 1: Old Town and Surfside Colony

There are a few things that I would vote against that would reduce the expenses of our city. For example the “Rule of Law” proposal presented to the Council in recent meetings would have introduced unnecessary spending. Fortunately those views were shared by the Chief of Police and by a majority of the council. For the most part the council and staff of Seal Beach have made decisions that contribute to our positive financial status.

As a citizen however, I find it a bit difficult to review the City’s financial statements for the last few years. Especially when it comes to our expenses for salaries and contract agreements. I strongly believe that the City Clerk, City Manager, and their staffs do a great job. They are qualified and deserve solid compensation. But considering the size of our city the budgets allowed for both offices seem high and should be reviewed.

According to the financial reports for the fiscal year ending in June 2009, the City Manager’s office and City Clerks office required $978,544 combined in one year, approximately 20% of which was designated for the City Attorney’s personal salary.

Plus, the City Attorney’s contract drew in a $559,554 dent in our budget.

I do take in to account that the city has been involved in litigation recently over land use issues, but having an in house legal staff could have reduced that half million-dollar expense by at least 30%. The outside contract we currently have in place for legal council is not cost effective and should be voted against when up for renewal.

I acknowledge that previous sitting councils entered into all contracts and they should be honored as such.

But if a vote were to come before me regarding these contracts again I would introduce some reform.

http://RobertAguilarJr.com.

Joe Kalmick: District 1: Old Town and Surfside Colony

As I said in last week’s response, our city is in reasonable financial condition, given the current economic climate.  If we continue to maintain a conservative approach in our budgetary spending we should be able to weather the downturn.

In terms of lowering the City’s expenses we should make an effort to reduce our legal expenses.  The current litigation over the DWP property, for example, is costing in excess of $40K per month.  Everything possible should be done to bring this issue to a close so we may proceed with a development solution.

However, we must not make any more cuts to or outsource for city services.  I feel that we have lost too much local control over the years, whether it be our fire department, or animal control services.

Many times the savings are short term, and it is very difficult to restore the contracted service.

Therefore sound fiscal policy involves the balance between watching the expenditures, maximizing revenues and maintaining adequate city services.adequate city services.

Scott Levitt: District 1: Old Town and Surfside Colony

It is essential for any organization, private or public to reduce spending and cut costs.  Seal Beach needs to ensure that all extraneous costs are eliminated from the City’s expenses.  Government agencies notoriously are inefficient.

This inefficiency stems from two major avenues, a lack of profit incentive, and the lack of accountability by its employees, as very few are ever terminated for lack of performance, and most pay raises are automatic rather than merit based.

An individual with private sector experience, extensive education, and practical application of accounting, finance and creating efficient systems is desperately needed on the Council to provide the knowledge to implement cost savings strategies within the City.

Seal Beach spends over $500,000/year on legal services. The problem is, our “outsourced” city attorney is personally incentivized to get the City into litigation, as his firm bills hours from such litigation.  Although counterintuitive, the Council continues to approve his contract and the work of his firm.  At the very least, all litigation should be sourced to a different law firm.

Recently, the City has spent over $100,000 on a consultant to re-write the zoning code.  This consultant was the City’s Planning Director for over a decade.  Why wasn’t the Code re-written when he was a salaried employee?  More importantly, very little of the Code needed to be re-written, it was only via the personal agendas of two Council Persons and a Planning Commissioner, that the City has wasted hundreds of man hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars to appease these individuals.

Currently, we have wasted close to $100,000 in legal fees dealing with a pending eminent domain case.  Why didn’t the Council agree to offer a realistic sum for the property?

Treat this election as a job interview, not a campaign! For more info: scott@levittforseal.com  www.levittforseal.com.

Ellery Deaton: District 1: Old Town and Surfside Colony

Lowering the cost of Government is essential in our current economy.  As Councilwoman, I would examine both the big-ticket items, and the smaller, seemingly insignificant expenses.  My grandmother taught me that if I watch my pennies, my dollars would take care of themselves.  Here are a few ideas:

1.    Employee Retirement: New tiers for new hires.  Negotiate a new, lower retirement plan for new hires for all employees.  Both the City Manager and the Police Department should be congratulated on restructuring the retirement for new Police hires.  This alone will result in about a 5% payroll savings long term.  However, it will be years until the budget is actually reduced from restructured retirements.  Therefore:

2.    Freeze employee overtime except for that needed for emergencies and community     special events.  Last year we paid out more than $400,000 in overtime.

3.    The City Council needs to direct the City Manager before and during contract negotiations and not just approve what has been negotiated.  Every benefit needs to be evaluated including car allowances, cell phones as well as pay increases and health benefits for all employees.

4.    Continue a hiring freeze for non-emergency personnel.

5.    Pay down the city’s unfunded liabilities to reduce the annual interest expense causing a drain on our budget.

6.    Consolidate employee positions where possible.

7.    Re-examine our bid process and review those items of significant cost that currently don’t require going out to bid to be sure we are getting the best value.

As a taxpayer, I believe our property tax and utility user tax should be used wisely to provide services for the taxpayer.  The budget requests should come from our citizens to improve our quality of life.  I promise to be a good steward of your tax dollar.  To learn more, please see ElectEllery.com.

Gordon Shanks: District 3: Hill, Bridgeport, Herron Pointe

Most of the actions the City Council can take to lower expenses have already been put into effect.

There is now a hiring freeze on new personnel and no overtime except for safety employees.

A special effort is being taken to obtain grants and stimulus funds for capital projects.

By law, all cities have to have a balanced budget, unlike the state.  For this reason, year-by-year Seal Beach has had to remain solvent.

Spending cannot exceed income.

Seal Beach has been fortunate, because of good planning, to increase its business base thus been aided in compensating for the recent recession.

To have any major reduction in expenses would require a curtailment of services.

I do not see that as being necessary.

We should keep the city solvent financially with the present service levels. Even so, it is imperative to always keep a watchful eye on the budget, expenditures and ways to avoid unnecessary wasteful spending.

Amalia Almasy: District 3: Hill, Bridgeport, Herron Pointe

In responding to this question, one may think government cost and services, and/or salaries; others may think property taxes, business tax. Tourism tax and everything in between.

Government cost, it takes many department and agencies to run services within Seal Beach as it does with most businesses.  As your councilmember, I will work with the mayor and other councilmember

s to represent Seal Beach residents and ensure that a full analysis is done on financials and that we listen to residents’ concerns and ask tough questions to Staff and Vendors in order to make decisions that will protect the financial status of our town.

I am in favor of staff contributing a (larger) portion to their pension accounts as many city-employees already do throughout many California cities.  Many non civil-service employees and the self-employed person’s retirement accounts are self-funded.  I also support the volunteer or intern project to fill and support the daily needs within Seal Beach.  Seal Beach has a unique community-based support of volunteerism, which has not been extended to the daily operations within the administration of our town.

This is an exciting time in Seal Beach as we have the opportunity to add a fresh and energetic team of new councilmember’s to the Council to represent Seal Beach Residents and our Beach Town!  I look forward to representing District 3 on the council – Please vote Amalia Almasy on Nov. 2.

Michael Levitt: District 5: Leisure World

Seal Beach is like a lean healthy steak…There is no fat to trim.

To spend less then we do now, we would have to provide less-_-Less tree trimming, fewer street repairs and smaller police presence.

Or we could borrow a great idea from larger government organizations and adopt the “Adopt” program.  Local civic and fraternal clubs and businesses could adopt portions of our greenbelt, landscaped medians and parks.

“Adoptions” signs would advertise the club or business to attract new members or customers.  Equally important it will demonstrate the organizations strong feelings of civic pride.

Their contributions would help defray the costs of maintains, irrigation and repairs, expenses now paid by the city.

Individually the adoption fees would be small.  Collectively they could significantly reduce the city’s outlay without reducing city services.

A second way  to reduce expenses will be to use college interns in place of part-time or contract employees.

Anne Seifert: District 5: Leisure World

Had I been sitting on City Council when the design of the new fire station was being discussed, I would have reduced costs by at least $1,000,000.

Many of my district’s shareholders, although supportive and appreciative of service received from the OC Fire Authority, are in shock at an over $5,000,000 station construction pricetag. It’s a station that was fundamentally “overbuilt”.  Mind you, I think it’s beautiful, but do we need ten rooms for five Firefighters, a third parking bay to fill, and a community room that Leisure World residents may never use? I do applaud the incorporation of green technology. And I do have great respect– my uncle was a New York City Firefighter.  It’s not about that. It’s about where our money goes.

That’s just for starters. What about the 7% pay raises and increased leave time approved by Council in April 2009? Here’s an expense of almost $700,000 a year– enough to lower the utility tax rate by a full percentage point. This happened during a year when California had 11% unemployment and 1% deflation rate.  We are not Bell, but it sure makes me want to ring the bell.

We need to take a closer look at how we spend our money. We need a critical eye that focuses on our priorities.  In my district, our shareholders have spoken; they want a food market. Who listened to us while that money was being spent?  For $1 million dollars, we could have had gourmet food trucks delivering to our doors!

Yes, I would have supported an improved fire station, but definitely would have cut the cost. And yes, I certainly support our employees who do a great job, but definitely would not have approved large raises during this time of economic belt-tightening.

Council Candidates: What would you vote for to lower Seal Beach’s expenses?