“Last Easy Budget” and Updated Simi Facts & Trends discussed at Simi City Council Meeting

By Kevin Harris

The Simi City Council approved their “last easy budget” Monday night, after being updated on Ventura County’s latest important trends from the biennial “State of the Region Report,” during the June 12 City Council Meeting. 

Money, Money, Money…

Item 8A, “New Business,” had a formal title so long, it made one want to smack an attorney. But in the staff attorneys’ defense, they did try to stuff a lot into this one item. Item 8A included 1) Review/approval of the 2017-18 City Budget, 2) Approval of the five-year Capital Improvement Program for 2017-18 to 2021-22, and 3) Approval of the 2017-18 Transit Budget and Program of Projects – and the adoption of resolutions. 

It’s just that, in the actual item resolution, they crammed all of that into one sentence! 

The main presentation was given by Rebecca Hodgskin, Simi’s Budget Officer, who explained that the budget process is 6-months long, beginning in January, with the new budget taking effect on July 1, 2017. The target for this year is a 5% reduction in expenditures. 

According to Hodgskin, General Fund Expenditures have increased by 16% since 2008-09, which is only marginally above the rate of inflation for the same period. And while many individual GF expenditures are down for 2017-18, personnel costs are up by 7.1% since last year. In Simi Valley, the Police Department receives nearly half of GF expenditures. 

In Simi Valley, most GF money – 83%, comes from taxes and franchises, which makes the city’s funding source relatively undiversified. 

Most forecast assumed expenditures hover near the inflation rate, including salaries, but   a few are proverbial bulls in a china shop: Health insurance = 5% annually; workers comp = 5% annually; and CalPERS (retirement) = 10-15% annually! The CalPERS figure does not represent an increase in retirement benefits, but rather an attempt by the city to pay down their unfunded liabilities. The CalPERS increase will continue each year into the foreseeable future, with no new revenues to offset it. 

The Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) includes $31.4 million in projects for 2017-18, and $142.5 million in projects over the next five years. CIP projects include waterworks (biggest expenditures); streets & roads; sanitation; municipal buildings and grounds; transit; and technology. The largest single CIP project coming up is the Recycled Water Project. 

The Simi Valley Transit System is totally paid for by state and federal grants, and riders fees – no local money currently required. 

Following staff’s presentation was a comment period by the Council. After the Mayor noticed how few residents showed up for the previous meeting where the budget was discussed, and there were no resident speakers at the current meeting, Council Member Glenn Becerra spoke words of concern and warning for the community:

“This is the last easy budget that we’re going to have. As a city council, it’s only going to get ugly from here. In the next five years, we’re going to have a $10 million increase just on CalPERS alone. Healthcare 5%; Workers Comp 5%. I just think it’s really important that the community watching see what we’re facing,” Becerra said. 

Becerra and other council members went on to suggest that they will have to re-evaluate things like water & sewer rates, among other things, at some near future date, to ensure that they are not operating the city at a loss. Council members also brought up the issue of internet sales tax, and they all agreed that internet purchases made in Simi Valley should be taxed in Simi Valley – a controversial topic and position, to say the least. 

The Council approved and passed the budget and resolutions, unanimously. 

Council Member Glenn Becerra

Ventura County Statistics

Item 5 during the meeting was an “Informational Presentation:” 2017 State of the Region Report. Presented by David Maron, from Ventura County Civic Alliance, this report is released every two years, detailing key county statistics. 

Some interesting takeaways from the current report:

  • The median age in Ventura County continues to grow older; now 37+ years, up from 36 years in the previous report.
  • By County, VC became less Republican, stayed about the same percentage Democrat, and increased dramatically in “other” Party affiliation. By City, Simi Valley keeps its Republican majority, along with one other VC city (Camarillo).
  • Simi Valley has a lot of residents not earning enough money at their jobs to pay the high rents of Ventura County, with the high rents fueled by high occupancy rates.
  • Ocean and air quality is vastly improved, and electricity use is declining per capita. This is likely due to conservation efforts combined with higher efficient electronics.
  • Each person generates more trash per day than before (all VC cities). 
  • Work commute times are increasing for VC residents.      

To download the 2017 State of the Union Report, go to http://civicalliance.org/state-of-the-region/

The next City Council meeting will be on Monday, July 24, 2017, at 6:30 pm. The agenda for this meeting can be found online at the following url: http://simivalley.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=5&clip_id=1946.

The video of the meeting can be found at: http://www.simivalley.org/i-want-to-/view-watch-/city-council-meetings

Scroll down to “Video Archives,” and click on the blue “Video” link.

 


Kevin Harris

Kevin Harris is a reporter, editor and journalist, previous President of Cal State Northridge’s Society of Professional Journalists having worked for the LA Times and Newhall Signal. He is now also a Realtor and videographer, and lives with his two children in Thousand Oaks. 

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