Details of the fiscal year (FY) 2020 operational expenditures for the Planning and Building Department and the Parks and Public Works Department were presented to City Council on Monday, April 1, in the Crowell Public Library’s Barth Community Room. The council accepted the included expenditures which will go on to approval in the proposed FY20 budget.
During the meeting, City Manager Dr. Marcella Marlowe reminded the council that no discretionary increases whatsoever were in the operating budget and council-selected options for priority initiatives were incorporated into the reports.
For the Planning and Building Department presented by Director Aldo Cervantes, personnel costs proposed for FY20 are $1,059,891, an increase of $88,278 from the FY19 budget. The estimated actuals for FY19, based on expenditures through Feb. 28, is $872,623, making the difference to FY19 estimated actuals a decrease of $187,268. The changes in budget include the addition of a part-time administrative analyst for the Economic Development program, vacancies with the senior planning and part-time code enforcement officer, and standard step increases in the pension costs for all staff.
For services and supplies, the costs proposed for FY20 are $578,824, an increase of $86,278 from the FY19 budget. The estimated actuals for FY19, based on expenditures through Feb. 28, is $352,105, making the difference to FY19 estimated actuals an increase of $226,719. The changes in budget include an increase with program costs for the Economic Development program, drawdowns in the Historic City Wide Survey until its completion and a decrease from the sunset of the Peafowl Abatement program.
Priority initiatives detailed include developing and launching a city-run Economic Development program to build the business corridor, creating a financial incentive program for planting heritage trees in front yards and creating a Business Improvement District (BID) for façade upgrades, sidewalks and trees.
Cervantes also highlighted efficiencies his department made in terms of budget costs. Previously the department was spending close to $500 to buy details for construction worker vehicles.
“What I’ve done is I went to Amazon and found a similar decal for $30, so I’m constantly looking for ways to save the city funds,” Cervantes shared, garnering laughs from attendees.
Cervantes also detailed a “significant increase” in personnel tied to the Economic Development program, which would include an analyst hired to facilitate it. Council Member Steve Talt questioned him on details for an economic return with the city’s investment in the program. There are also plans for incentives for first-time businesses.
“There’s an appearance standard that gets increased as you start to see the gains of sales tax and revenues from these various businesses,” said Cervantes. “What I’ve captured in talking to my colleagues is that it’s not going to be an overnight system, it’s going to take several years to start seeing some positives.”
For the Peafowl Abatement program, Cervantes shared that $7,000 of the line item $38,000 has been expended to date, trapping and relocating around 35 peafowl.
“We did see sort of a peak in the capturing and relocation of the peafowl,” said Cervantes. “It seems to be dwindling in terms of our capture of peafowl.”
Cervantes made a recommendation to decrease the amount of funding utilized, but several council members expressed wishes to see funding remain into the next year.
For the Parks and Public Works Department presented by Director Michael Throne, personnel costs proposed for FY20 are $1,745,902, a decrease of $123,342 from the FY19 budget. The estimated actuals for FY19, based on expenditures through Feb. 28, are $1,786,351, making the difference to FY19 estimated actuals a decrease of $40,449. The changes in budget include establishing an urban forester to develop an urban forestry program, eliminating two full-time positions and three part-time positions and the CalPERS rate for PEPRA miscellaneous employees (Public Works Director and Administrative Analyst) decreased.
For services and supplies, the costs proposed for FY20 are $1,646,140, a decrease of $14,120 from the FY19 budget. The estimated actuals for FY19, based on expenditures through Feb. 28, are $1,227,435, making the difference to FY19 estimated actuals an increase of $418,705. The changes in budget include an increase with receiving expert outside assistance to support the urban forester role, discontinuing staff-installed sidewalk and trees (work efforts shifted to existing contracts in capital improvement plan at no additional cost), and anticipated increases for the cost of utilities primarily due to tiered water rates.
The priority initiative detailed in the agenda report involves hiring an urban forester to assess both the health and stability of trees and also conduct a public inventory of city trees.
Throne detailed accomplishments worked into next year’s proposals that include the start of a sidewalk replacement program to take place over the next four years and using operational plans to review each item of work performed to calculate cost savings or additional costs if changes are made.
“We’ve taken a hard and serious look at revamping public works operations,” said Throne. “Last year’s Parks and Public Works budget actually contained many reductions in operational expenses based on my first year assessment of the program.”
Also noted was a proposal to eliminate two full-time maintenance positions and three part-time maintenance assistant positions, as the two full-time positions and two of the three part-time positions have been vacant for about four months.
“We’ve tracked our work schedules and productivity since that time and have drawn the conclusions that we can continue to provide good service without these positions being filled in the future,” said Throne.
Council Member Susan Jakubowski shared that the council had previously expressed concerns on staffing levels and was heartened to hear of improvements.
“I’m extremely pleased to see that that staffing number is going down,” said Jakubowski.