The City of Eureka’s Ugly Budget Secrets
This past Tuesday’s Eureka City Council Meeting featured an item on the 2013/14 FY supplemental budget. Apparently, the reserve in the general fund is projected to be about $777,000. What we found interesting in the discussion was the apparent lack of transparency from Paul Rodrigues (surprise, surprise). Almost every council member had trouble getting Paul to answer their questions directly.
For instance, Chet Albin asked Paul 3 times about where the money for additional hiring at the police department would come from. Was it figured into the budget, or would it come out of the reserves. At one point Albin said, “That’s not my question, Paul. If they hired…two full time people (police officers)…where does that money come from?” Paul paused for several seconds, and then began a longwinded speech that didn’t answer the question. Paul finally ended by saying, “If we were expecting 2 (police officers) and hired five, and we didn’t anticipate the other 3, the additional 3 would come out of the 777 (meaning the $777,000 reserve in the general fund).”
After that exchange, Melinda Ciarabellini had to chime in. “I was really trying hard to follow that. So the salary savings in each department aren’t kept within the department?” she asked. Paul answered by saying that he and Former City Manager Dave Tyson had come up with a method that showed department budgets as being “fully loaded”, even though the savings would go back into the general fund.
Throughout the discussion Paul made it clear that the police department had never been fully staffed. He said he had spoken with Dave Tyson and Murl Harpham, and that the department hadn’t been fully staffed since Murl was hired. At one point Paul admitted what the Examiner has been saying about the city’s budget for a long time. He said, “If the Police Department was ever fully staffed, we’d be looking at a unique challenge. Because, as I’ve said in talking with Dave Tyson and Murl Harpham, it’s never happened before in their experience”.
Paul finally admitted that the farce of a “fully staffed” police department has never happened, and the City doesn’t expect it to! There’s where the real reserves come from. By allocating numerous positions in the police budget that will never be filled, the city knows they can talk about their support for public safety, ask citizens to support tax increases, and continue to fund things like the Zoo without consequence.
Paul stated the City’s position best when he said, “Hopefully the expenditures (from departments) come in quite a bit lower (than budgeted).”
Too see what we’ve been saying about Paul Rodrigues you need to watch the full discussion. It can be viewed here (Police discussion starting at 1:46:03):