How council candidates would solve structural deficit if Measure K doesn’t pass

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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This year’s City Council candidates have their own plans for solving the structural deficit in the General Fund if voters don’t pass Measure K this November. Jeff Greenberg said the “No. 1” action he would take is to have one “public safety director” instead of a police chief and fire chief, that would “oversee budgets and make overall decisions.” “Leaving day-to-day decision to battalion chiefs and lieutenants, as it’s being done in many cities,” Greenberg said. “The reason for that is it would eliminate one large salary and benefits, which comes out of the General Fund, and by eliminating one salary, it will help us replace two police persons who have been given pink slips.” With salary reductions in the General Fund, Greenberg said, “we would be able to maintain the other two police personnel.” Reducing the salaries of the city’s upper management is something Stan Nader said he’d focus on, if elected. “They say their wages are not in the General Fund so I understand that people think that by lowering the salaries, that’s not going to have an impact but this is what the people want done,” Nader said. “It’s because that’s what the voters have been telling me that they want done.” Nader also said he’d work to “find money that they say they don’t have.” He pointed out that the city spent money on the interim police chief and paid $54,000 recently to a consulting firm to educate residents about Measure K. “That money came out of the General Fund too easy for me,” Nader said. “If the General Fund was in that difficult of shape, they would have wrung their hands over spending that money.” Gabriel Hydrick said Measure K is a “symptom of the disease, not the disease itself,” and that the “disease” is “careless spending, ignoring the general public and extremely low confidence in city officials.” “My attention and time is consumed with how to cut out the disease rather than treat the symptom,” Hydrick said. “Curing the disease will eliminate our fear of the symptom.” Examples given for how to “cure the disease” include, but aren’t limited to, eliminating the assistant city manager position, eliminating health care and lifetime health care for City Council members and “getting rid of careless spending.” The General Fund isn’t the problem, according to Hydrick. “It is the management, or lack thereof, of our monies and personnel that are sinking the city,” Hydrick said. “When we get our financial house in order, listen to the citizens, trust our personnel and make wise and bold decisions, the rest will fall into place.” A new revenue source or budget reductions is the solution to the deficit in the General Fund, according to Richard Pearl. “There is no magic bullet delivering new revenue and no legal or fiscally prudent way to tap other funds or reserves,” Pearl said. “The issue is clear, our sales and property taxes just can’t support a full-service city,” Pearl said. “We need to get control over employee salaries and benefits, and I will move for that as soon as I’m on the City Council.” Cutting back the city’s expenditures is something Reid Barney said the city would have to do if Measure K doesn’t pass. “It (the city) will do what every private business and individual household must do. It will cut back on its expenditures until the budget is balanced,” Barney said. “We need to understand that if Measure K fails, the votes will not be saying that they do not want adequate police, fire, library and parks services. I would interpret that message to be that the taxpayers pay enough already and they are not going to pay any more.” Barney said he would work to reduce costs without reducing personnel or “lowering the quality of service.” Those areas would be vacation benefits and health benefits for council members. Linda Stackpoole, who is currently on the City Council, said further budget cuts would happen if Measure K doesn’t pass. “I will cut and eliminate General Fund services until we reach the point that our revenues match our expenditures,” Stackpoole said. “As far as prioritizing these cuts, that will be a decision that the entire council will have to make but I think we all agree that public-safety services will be the last to be cut.”