Meeting Minutes, June 3, 2013

1.  Officer Jesse Sousa reports that there is now a security guard at Planet Fitness, 6 days a week, patrolling both by bicycle and on foot.  He is pleased by this development and checks out the parking lot himself as well.  He told us about a recent robbery not yet on the report he was reading from.  About 1 P.M. in the victim’s driveway where the victim was held up at gunpoint with the gun pointed at his chest.  The robber held the gun on him while fleeing, until out of sight.

Officer Sousa gave a summary of residential burglaries occurring over the past month, including 2 last week, 20 minutes to an hour apart.  One on 30th street, 900 block; one on 35th street.  Both houses belonged to teachers who went home on their lunch break.  The first was burglarized about an hour after returning to work.  The front door was kicked open in both cases.  One had a burglar alarm sticker on the front door.  The officer advises that people pay attention before going into your home or driving into the driveway.   Since last month stolen vehicles down from 7 to 5.  Humboldt area 800 – 900 block seems there may be a trend of stolen vehicle offenses.  Residential burglaries at least 7 last month: Amador (2 on 700 block), Clinton, Kern.

Commercial burglaries; vandalism on Solano; hit and runs also – try to get a description of a plate, ask possible witnesses before leaving the scene.  Again the officer asks residents to call in when we see suspicious people in our neighborhood.  Vacant properties increase the risk and again Officer Sousa asked for information about vacant properties, which is where burglars can run to after committing a crime.  Many of the perpetrators are juveniles.  The officer was questioned as to whether the increase in burglaries is related to AB 109 releases from the prisons.  Officer Sousa will do a presentation in the future on preventing burglaries and will talk with the police gang unit which tracks people on GPS bracelets give us the feedback on this AB 109 question.

2.  City Budget Presentation by City Manager Bill Lindsay with Lashonda White of the City Manager’s office.  Bill Lindsay can be contacted at: 510-620-6512 (Bill_lindsay@ci.richmond.ca.us)

Short overview of the budget process, where we are currently and some of the longer-term issues.

Planning process: everything follows from the General Plan, the long term vision covering 20 years, primarily addressing land use issues but also other elements.  These guidelines inform the development of 5 year strategic business plans and financial projections.  Every 2 years community surveys are conducted using statistically valid methods to get the community’s input about how we’re doing and what we need to look at.

Current City projects include street paving, energy efficiency and solar rebate program (funded with grants and PG&E incentives and using local labor), job training (@ 300 jobs for summer youth employment program), street lights (replace old series lights, replace incandescent with LED lights which saves costs); aggressive approach to park rehabilitation, tree planting, urban greening grant; public safety: community policing program, neighborhood watch, shot spotter and surveillance cameras, Office of Neighborhood Safety with case management approach to at risk youth; BART garage officially opening this month, part of renovating the downtown area; infrastructure projects include Moody underpass construction which will start late this summer funded primarily by non-City funds (grants & old redevelopment funds); Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory will be developing Richmond field station into second campus for the Laboratory, projecting over 40 years of development of about 5 million square feet for lab support space (to be used by the university, private labs and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab).

Sources of revenue: property tax, utility users tax, sales & use tax.  Only 25% of our property taxes go to the City of Richmond.  City gets 1.5 cents on the dollar of sales & use tax; utility users tax is biggest source of revenue for the City (35%).   Over past 5 years the City budget has been in the red a few times, especially in beginning of 2008 and the following 3 years.  Averaging the years out Lindsay says that they have maintained an overall balanced budget. Fiscal year 2013 (July 2012-June 2013) was roughly balanced; fiscal year 2014 currently projecting a 4 million deficit which they will need to balance by the end of June 2013.

Budget process: departments submit their proposed budget based on what they need to operate the department the way they want to; staff compiles that with a revenue estimate and then takes a snapshot of the budget situation.  This year expenditures exceeded projected revenues by $22 million.  Staff then reduces spending plans and looks for additional revenue.  This $22 million shortfall is now down to $4 million.  Between now and the end of June they have to cut $4 million more.

Imbedded in these calculations is the assumption that retirement costs are fully funded which in fact isn’t true.  The plan is to chip away at the unfunded liability each year but the past few years they have not made any progress on this due to the recession.  In any year when there is an operating surplus at the end of the fiscal year those funds are put towards the unfunded pension liability.  Hope to be able to do it this year and in future. 

Expect moderate growth in utility users tax, a little increase in property tax and sales tax (especially car sales) due to upturn in the economy and increases in local businesses such as Planet Fitness.
Over the last 5 years the State’s budget problems have been passed on to the Cities.  The City used to get a lot more from the State.  Currently the State ‘s fiscal house is getting more stable which makes it easier for the City to plan.  Mr. Lindsay predicts very moderate expenditure increases over next 5 years saying they are basically at a status quo budget with no substantial increase in services. 

Full time employees are down from 944 to 785 since 2008 without any reduction in sworn police officers but because of benefit costs personnel costs have gone up despite this decrease in the numbers of City employees.  The Police Department has had a very good labor contract over the past 4 years.  Police salaries were raised because of attrition and the need to retain officers.  Currently the City is in labor negotiations with all the unions. 

Mr. Lindsay says that the City has managed its debt.  City policy is that the debt should be no more than 10% of the annual operating budget and the City has kept within that limit.  He gave some historical background about the pension situation.  During the boom in the late 90’s and early 2000’s generous pensions given were given but then investment earnings went down and PERS ended up in trouble.  In Richmond employees pay 100% of employee share although that is not always the case in all jurisdictions; the new pension reform legislation requires that by 2018 all contracts require employees to pay a least 50% of pension costs.  In Richmond the Misc. (non-safety workers) employees currently pay 8% and will have to go up to 11% to be at the statutory 50% requirement.
 
Budget Calendar, process whereby the budget is submitted to the City Council: a special meeting is scheduled for 6/11 where the Council will hear the budget presentations and will start their policy review. On 6/25 the plan is for the Council to pass a balanced budget covering the next two years.

   Answers to audience questions:

Unemployment 6 – 7% historically higher than the County average.
Discussion of need for garbage cans, picking up of trash and illegal dumping.

Mr. Lindsay strongly opposes any BART extension that leaves the downtown Richmond station as a spur.   He thinks BART should be extended through their existing maintenance yard, the Richmond Parkway to Hilltop.  He says that there is no requirement that all alternatives be studied.  CEQUA says they have to study other feasible alternatives, not exhaust all alternatives.

3.  Tom Waller representing volunteer writer/coach program.  Tom grew up in Richmond though he has lived most of adult life elsewhere.  His purpose in coming here tonight is to share about the volunteer writer/coach program in local high schools called the “Writer/coach connection”.   See Writercoachconnection.org.  The program was started 10 years ago in Berkeley by parents and educators to facilitate more one on one attention for students to help improve writing skills.  Tom began volunteering at El Cerrito High and this year was at Richmond High.   Volunteers work 4 hours per month.  The program is very well organized.  Coaches coordinate with teachers and work with the students on their current assignments, ordinarily staying with the same student throughout the school year.  Tom says the coaching is really easy to do.  Training is provided (2 each 3 hour sessions) for the coaches.  The next training is coming in two weeks on Wednesdays.  There will also be one in August.  Interested volunteers can sign up on line: writercoachconnection.org, call Shelli Fried (510-530-7600), or send an email to sfreid0530@gmail.com.
Richmond High is expanding so they are recruiting more people in our community.  You can decide if you want to do the coaching after you do the training.  Signing up for the training doesn’t commit you.

4.  Saturday, 7/13, garbage pick-up by Tiller Park: non-hazardous materials, no concrete, no electronics.  Scrap metal is okay.

5.  National Night out: 8/6/13, Tiller Park, first Tuesday in August.

6.  July Neighborhood Council Meeting: 3rd Monday in July. Police chief will be the guest.

Adjourned at 8:40.

 

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