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Your Long Beach City Budget Update
Your Long Beach City Budget Update
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Participatory Budgeting Process

 

One of the most innovative, dynamic concepts to happen is "participatory budgeting" -- including residents in the process of deciding how local government should spend your tax dollars.

Most local governments give lip service to this concept because quite honestly it is cumbersome and can be painful when residents want one thing and elected officials want another.

You might want to check out the following links to websites discussing this concept and where it has been used:
City of Vallejo
City of Chicago
I am trying to bring participatory budgeting to Long Beach, so stay tuned. In order to participate, it is important that you have the information necessary to make decisions.

I will be sending out this update on a routine basis to give you the information I have about how the city's finances operate. I encourage you to participate on my Facebook group: Let's Talk Budget. Click here.

Sending a Positive, Optimistic Message

I am taking our economic situation very seriously. But we need to step back and think what type of message is continually coming out of City Hall to the community -- residents, businesses and potential businesses.

The message is negative and pessimistic. A  potential deficit has been announced almost every year that I have been in office. Of course, by the time we pass the budget, it is balanced as a deficit is not allowed by state or city law. That message rarely gets out.

Residents have been told time and again that unless all city employee unions step up and agree to pension reform, serious cuts in core services -- the services delivered by these employees -- will happen.  Public safety unions have agreed to pension reform -- yet their services have been cut. The non-public safety employee union is slated to also agree to pension reform -- yet the services they provide are also being proposed to be cut. These employees were publicly chastised for not wanting to help with the deficit -- they have helped and are scheduled to help -- yet cuts continue.

The City Manager and Mayor have proposed and made serious cuts to core services -- police, fire, parks and recreation and library. Infrastructure repair is behind.

Streets particularly need fixing -- but oil prices are increasing dramatically and the cost of asphalt increases significantly (as asphalt is made from oil). Yet, the City (which sits one of the largest oil and gas fields) assesses an oil (but not gas) production tax (which would help pay for asphalt) one half the amount that Signal Hill does. (The oil production tax does not impact the cost of oil at the pump whatsoever because the cost of oil at the pump is sent at the international market.) Today, oil is selling at $104 per barrel with an annual forecast that oil will reach $121 a barrel. There are 42 gallons in each barrel. The City of Long Beach's oil tax  (which is a .41 cents per barrel tax and not based upon the market value)  essentially charges Occidental Petroleum 41 cents, leaving the oil company $103.59 a barrel. Last Saturday, the LA Times reported that Oxy Petroleum generated a net profit of $1.56 billion in the first three months of 2012. See article by clicking here.

The City Auditor has identified 5 instances of City departments not appropriately handling and/or collecting revenue to which the City is entitled and needs. These instances include: towing, animal care services, parking tickets (two reports) and parks, recreation and marine department fees. What does this say to the community? That perhaps our "deficits" are being caused by our inefficiencies?  No business would operate like this...for long.

Sadly, there are numerous other departments that need to be audited concerning their revenue collection practices. (I will write more on this because I think we need to heed the advice of the Government Finance Officers Association and to either contract out our collections activities or consolidate all these activities into one department.)

Our message needs to be changed. Now. We need to get our own house in order and make certain that the City is efficient and effective and that we are lean. The first thing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel did upon taking office was to order a 10% reduction in senior management: reduce compensation across the board or reduce the number of positions -- whichever results in a 10% reduction in the cost of senior management. This makes sense. Instead of laying off lower paid employees who actually deliver the services to the taxpayers -- cuts needs to be made where they will not impact these services.

Every City department needs to justify its existence for continued funding. Can we consolidated departments?

And my personal pet peeve I have pursued for 6 years: when are we going to get an automated time and attendance system so that we know who is at work, how long do they work each day, who is on sick leave or vacation or workers compensation? Is every hourly employee getting their breaks and lunch -- a fact we need to prove if they ever file an FLSA claim that they didn't receive these.

We employ 5,000 and time sheets are hand written every two weeks and put into the computer by 12 employees.

Okay. So we have a lot of work to do. And I would appreciate your input.

Thank you for being engaged in this important civic effort.

Sincerely,

Gerrie
Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, 5th District

P.S. Pass this along to your neighbors. Ask them to get involved. Red

 

Postings on my blog about the City Budget
 
04-24-2012 18:41:00 PM

 Check out this link to an earlier story in the Long Beach Business Journal in which it was reported that the City Council was told by management that the LA Sheriff's Department quoted over a $1 million to pick up our prisoners and take them to the courthouse. The article notes that I asked to see the estimate from the LA Sheriff -- which I never received and which now has been disclosed by the LA Sheriff's that it was never requested. This looks really bad. Proposed Long Beach Police Tunnel To Deukmejian Courthouse Project Heads To City Council...»

 

04-23-2012 19:13:00 PM

 Remember the story about a tunnel needed between the LB Police Department and the new courthouse? And how the City didn't get it into the original design and how when I asked why we couldn't have the LA County Sheriffs department just come and pick up the prisoners as they do for other cities I was told it was too expensive??  

 

Ok. So when I asked to see a copy of the LA County Sheriff's estimate of what they would charge to transport City of Long Beach jail inmates across the street to the new courthouse -- I wasn't given it.  

 

But trust us Councilwoman Schipske, said City Management -- the Sheriff says it would cost a lot -- and so it would be cheaper for us to spend $5 million and build an underground tunnel. The worse part was the the city Council was even given a written memo outlining supposed estimates by the LA Sheriff for transporting prisoners across to the new courthouse.  

 

So when the reporter from the LB Business Journal called me and asked if I had seen a copy of the estimate, I said "NO" and suggested she call the LA County Sheriff herself to see what they would give her. Wow. Not only do they not have a written estimate. The spokesperson states no one from LB ever asked for one. So where did all the figures come from that were placed into a memo from City Management to the City Council??See link below to article. Long Beach Police Tunnel: Starting Over On Cost Estimate ...»

04-18-2012 16:53:00 PM

Last night in City Council I expressed my disappointment that when asked for city management to bring to council suggested "revenue ideas" -- all that was presented were taxes, and taxes, and taxes. See Press Telegram story. Click here.  

 

As I stated last night --there are a number of ways to balance the city's budget that do not include raising taxes. I read off a list of suggestions from the Government Finance Officers Association -- which was prepared to help all cities across the US who are facing financial uncertainty.  

 

See Fiscal First Aid list from Government Finance Officers.   

 

I also read off a list of items I had found doing research on other cities:  

  • Offer city facilities to rent out for cellphone towers -- Chula Vista is getting $500,000  
  • Reduce recycling to 2 x a month -- Sacramento is saving $1 million a month  
  • Offer a paramedic subscription program that will save residents the cost of their insurance or Medicare copay when billed for these services -- Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Orange, Fullerton, etc. all offer this program which brings in @ $250,000 annually  
  • Do an audit of our health care insurance program to eliminate people who are not eligible for coverage but remain on the health care plan and eliminate dual coverage -- if employees have coverage under another health care plan then they should not receive coverage from the City of Long Beach  
  • Audit workers compensation injuries and determine how they can be prevented
  • Implement an automated time and attendance system so the city knows who is at work every day, how long they work, and when they take sick and vacation leave -- right now all 4000 plus city employees are tracked manually using 12 full time clerks  
  • Charge the 41,465 non residents who use our libraries $24 for a library card. $24 is the per capita expenditure residents pay in taxes for library services
  • Consolidate the Fire and Police Administrative Headquarters. The City currently spends $104,000 a MONTH ($1.2 million a year) to house a couple of helicopters and 54 Fire Department management
  • Bring them downtown and rent hangar space for the helicopters. Use that $1.2 million a year (or $38 million for the current 32 year lease) to staff fire stations properly.  

 

We will be talking more throughout the year as we get into budget talks. I will be hosting a series of "Let's Get Real" virtual townhalls to talk about fixing what ails us in Long Beach. ...»

 

04-09-2012 03:38:00 AM

I have launched a group on Facebook: Let's Talk Long Beach Budget" to facilitate a discussion of how we can reshape the City of Long Beach's budget. I have already posted some ideas on how to generate revenue. Click here to sign up. ...»


 
04-26-2012 19:54:00 PM

When Citizens Make a Budget, Can They Look Beyond Their Own Neighborhoods?Long Beach needs to involve our residents in the same process. I am working on putting together a process by which residents of the 5th can at least provide input on what infrastructure projects need to be funded in the 5th. Because we have so many (more than other districts because of our geographic size), I really feel that residents need to weigh in about where the money should be spent....»

 

04-20-2012 20:07:00 PM

 

Schipske Challenges Long Beach News Media to Host "Long Beach Budget Balancer"- Says 'It's time we had everyone's input on the City budget'

 

Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske today challenged the Long Beach news media to join the ranks of the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the MinnPost and the Cleveland Plain Dealer and other news outlets who host online budgeting tools that give readers the opportunity to help balance local governments' budgets.                

 

"For the last two budget cycles, I have asked City management to obtain software that would allow all residents to give their direct input on how the City should balance its budget," says Schipske, pointing out that several cities provide this online tool.  

 

"Management has informed me that the majority of the Council may not support this expenditure. So I am asking our local news media to take on the challenge of providing an online budgeting tool for their readers just as is provided by other news outlets."                

 

Schipske points out that there are a number of online tools available at a reasonable cost. Input of budget information would need to be provided by City staff.  

 

These tools include:         

  • Budget Allocator: Approximate cost: $4,000. http://bangthetable.com/products/budget-allocator/feature-tour/·         
  • Next10: Approximate cost: $15,000 (is used for the California Budget Project and by several cities). http://www.budgetchallenge.org/pages/home·         
  • User Voice: Approximate cost: $289 per month (is used by the City of Seattle). http://www.uservoice.com/·         
  • Peak Democracy: Approximate cost: $500 per month. http://www.peakdemocracy.com/how_it_works·        
  • Budget Simulator: Approximate cost: $4,000 - 6,000. http://www.budgetsimulator.com/info/News outlets  and other sites offering these online budgeting tools include:·        New York Times: You Fix the Budget: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/11/13/weekinreview/deficits-graphic.html?scp=1&sq=fix%20the%20deficit&st=cse·        MinnPost: You Fix the Minnesota Deficit: http://www.minnpost.com/data/2011/02/you-fix-minnesota-deficit·        Los Angeles Times: California Budget Balancer: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/budget/·        Cleveland Plain Dealer: Try Your Hand at Closing the Gap: http://www.cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2011/03/the_budget_widget_try_your_han.htmlMayor Annise Parker  
  •  California Budget Challenge: http://www.budgetchallenge.org/pages/home·         
  • City of Houston: Budget Balancer: http://www.houstonbudgetbalancer.com/                

Schipske notes that hosting an online budgeting tool by the news media also sends a message to residents that the responses will be fully reported - "even if they are uncomfortable for local officials to read"....»



 
Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske

 

Gerrie Schipske is a native of Long Beach and has served on the Long Beach City Council since 2006.  She previously served on the Long Beach City College Board of Trustees. Gerrie is a Registered Nurse Practitioner and licensed attorney. She operates a medical -legal consulting company and teaches part-time at California State University at Long Beach.