As we continue to reflect on the fires, we still must stay focused on the other issues at hand.
Many of you already know, the City of Chula Vista is in its second round of budget cuts due to non-producing revenue streams. There is the Otay Ranch Town Center Shopping Mall not producing its tax stream and there has been a drop in building fees and property taxes, besides other additional revenue issues.
The City of Chula Vista must eliminate approximately $7.3 million from its budget, but in reality it means almost $15 million for the remaining 6 months of their fiscal year (July '07 - June '08). To meet the gap, the NEW city manager is looking at laying off staff, eliminating some phantom staff positions and cutting community services.
The first logical saving action should be to elimination staff positions, which you have budgeted, but don't plan on filling, which I call phantom staff positions. I have learned it would save enough money to leave the City of Chula Vista with only around $400,000 in additional budget cuts. However, I was astounded to learn the NEW city manager plans to lay-off staff and cut community services, instead of eliminating all these phantom positions. The first question should be why would the NEW city manager cut city services, before eliminating these phantom positions? The second question would be what does this NEW city manager plan to do with the phantom staff money?
The next budget question is the Chula Vista Nature Center. I have actually been there and love it. However, in 2002 the Center was the former Bayfront Conservancy Trust and could not pay its bills, including a $8 million loan by the City of Chula Vista. So, the City of Chula Vista took it over and forgave their $8 million loan. It seems the Center was projected to cover their operating costs, but has never lived up to that promise. The Center's staff proposed this year to save the City of Chula Vista money by not purchasing new animals and thus save money on the animals and the additional food for those animals. The NEW city manager, against the suggestion of the Center staff, plans to go ahead and purchase more animals for them, and then would be obligated to buy more food, thus increasing the Center's operating costs. Why would this NEW city manager cut city services over the suggestions of the Center's staff? Also, this might not be the last year in low revenue, but his action to purchase new animals will have future year operating costs. Plus there are other costs associated with the new animals. Not a good business move and something he should have learned from his time in Yuma.
So, by my calculations with only $400,000 left in cuts after eliminating phantom positions and then on top of that holding off on the Center increases, which is almost another $100,000 the NEW city manager could save most all the city services. He is not taking these steps and instead is choosing to cut city services. We deserve to know why?
FYI - The Union Tribune editorial first offered cutting employee salaries to save money over cutting phantom positions. Maybe the NEW city manager should stop taking the advice of the U-T editorial page and instead the advise of the U-T reporters. The reporter called the Bayfront Conservancy Trust deficit-plagued.