News Details
Schipske Calls for Fiscal Accountability Package
July 22, 2008 - In less than 24 hours from listening to an overflow crowd at the El Dorado Senior Center, Fifth District Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske today called upon the Mayor and the City Council to support a package of fiscal accountability charter reform proposals which would "send the message to voters that its local government is serious about fixing its fiscal problems."
"It was abundantly clear that the residents attending the meeting last night want the City to put into place fiscal accountability measures before we ask them to pay a parcel tax," says Schipske who organized the community meeting so that residents could hear details about the proposed parcel tax and the pending FY 2009 budget.
"I am putting forth the following fiscal accountability measures that would revise our City Charter and put in place some much needed reforms. I encourage my council colleagues to support these measures and to add others that would help clean up the financial mess this City faces."
Schipske says she is proposing measures that focus upon establishing mandated budget reserves; forming a citizens' commission to review all elected officials salaries (which range from over $200,000 to $30,000); setting the City Council budgets at a set amount (instead of each district having different amounts); and mandating the transfer of surplus water and gas department funds into a City reserve account that will be used for only paying off debt related to municipal improvements.
"There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth over my proposing these measures," notes Schipske. "But unless we start showing our willingness to be accountable we shouldn't be going hat in hand to our residents."
Schipske will asking that the proposed Charter reform measures also be placed on the November ballot along with any proposals to impose a parcel tax.
Schipske's proposals include:
Mandated Reserves: Beginning Fiscal Year 2010, the City Council shall establish a fund known as the "General Fund Reserve" in an amount not less than 5% of the budget for the purpose of maintaining municipal services during periods of reduced revenues to the City, as well as meeting unforeseen contingencies and emergencies of the City.
Elected Official Salary Equity: Beginning January 1, 2009, the City Council shall establish a Citizens' Elected Officials Compensation Commission which shall be responsible for setting the salaries and benefits for the City Council, the Mayor, the City Attorney, the City Prosecutor and the City Auditor annually. The seven-member Commission shall meet annually, no later than April 30, to determine if any changes should be made to the salaries and benefits of the city's elected officials. The decisions of the Commission shall be transmitted to the Mayor not later than July 1 for inclusion in his budget and shall become effective the October following the annual meeting. The members of the Commission shall be appointed by the Mayor: three representing the public, three representing the business community, and three representing labor organizations. The City Auditor shall serve as an Ex-Officio member. Each member serves one six-year term, and the terms are staggered. Staff from the Human Resources Department shall provide support to the Commission using existing resources of the Department.
Mayor and City Council Legislative and Administrative Budget Allowance: Beginning Fiscal Year 2010, the legislative and administrative budget of the Mayor and the City Council shall be set in the following manner: the legislative and administrative allowance shall be the same for each Councilmember; the Mayor shall receive annually an amount for legislative and administrative operations not to exceed twice the amount received by an individual Councilmember; the total amount for the Mayor and City Council legislative and administrative budget shall not exceed the amount appropriated in Fiscal Year 2009 and shall be adjusted annually by an amount not to exceed the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the Long Beach-Los Angeles areas in the prior year. Nothing in this provision shall prohibit the Mayor and City Council from reducing the total amount of the Mayor and City Council legislative and administrative budget below the Fiscal year 2009 level should financial circumstances so warrant a reduction.
Water and Gas Utility Funds Transfer to General Reserve Fund: At the end of each fiscal year an amount equal to fifteen (15%) per centum of the operating revenues from each of the Gas and Water departments of Long Beach for such year, excluding receipts from water or natural gas supplied to other cities or utilities at wholesale rates, shall be transferred from said Gas and Water Departments surplus fund to the general reserve fund; provided, that the council may annually, at or before the time for adopting the general budget for the ensuing fiscal year, reduce said amount or wholly waive such   transfer if, in its opinion, such reduction or waiver is necessary to insure the sound financial position of said departments of Gas and Water and it shall so declare by resolution. The sum thus transferred in any fiscal year shall be expended only for the following purposes and shall be applied first to the payment of interest and principal on any bonds of the City which are or shall become wholly payable that fiscal year out of monies received from general taxes of the City, and second to municipal improvements included in the budget of City for that fiscal year. For the purposes of this section "municipal improvements" are those items included in Section 43601 of the Government Code: 43601.  As used in this article, "municipal improvement" includes bridges, waterworks, water rights, sewers, light and power works or plants, buildings for municipal uses, wharves, breakwaters, jetties, seawalls, schoolhouses, fire apparatus street work, and other works, property, or structures necessary or convenient to carry out the objects, purposes, and powers of the city.  "Municipal improvement" also includes the acquisition of real property for a civic center site or for any public use or uses, whether or not the improvement of said real property is part of the purposes for which the bonds are to be issued and whether or not funds for the improvement of said real property are presently available from other sources.