Do Challengers Have the Chops for Simi Valley Budget?

The Simi Valley election this year is critical.  We’ll determine in this election who will be one of the critical decision makers in future Simi Valley budget decisions. And with an economy that’s on the road to recovery, but not yet fully on the up-swing, we need to know if the challengers have what it takes!

Here’s a snippet of a Ventura County Star article describing Simi Valley’s balanced budget. They key players are Simi Valley’s City Management and City Council, including the incumbents in this election.

The Simi Valley City Council has approved a $54.8 million budget, balancing it through a series of savings measures, including compensation reductions and leaving open a number of vacant positions.

City Councilwoman Michelle Foster noted at the council’s meeting Monday night that the budget for fiscal year 2010-11 was balanced without any significant service cuts.

“We don’t take lightly what we had to do tonight, and the impact that it has professionally and personally on so many people” Foster said. “I think our community looks at it and sees that we haven’t had to significantly reduce programs. We definitely have not reduced the level of service that we try to provide to our community.”

Though city expenditures had been projected at $59 million — $4.2 million more than projected revenues — the budget was balanced in large part through a series of “reverse priorities” savings measures, compensation reductions and transferring $1.4 million in building improvement fund money to the city’s general fund.

Nearly $2 million was saved through city department reductions, including leaving vacant more than 10 positions.

The only reduction in the Police Department was to eliminate funding for one vacant traffic services assistant position.

City Manager Mike Sedell, who oversaw the budget process, said police officers and managers throughout city government have taken three-percent cuts in their total compensation packages, which include salary and benefits.

Read the complete article here.

The Simi Valley budget is balanced, and done so without massive layoffs.  Can the challengers really say that our current leadership should be replaced, especially considering Simi Valley is weathering the economic slump better than some cities?  Can Mayoral Candidate Bob Huber and City Council Candidates Mike Judge, Scott Miller and Mitch Green be just as effective or even more effective as the incumbents?

City Officials Manage Budget Effectively

Weeks ago, I sat in the City Council meeting anxious to hear news about the city budget, knowing the city was pressured to cut just more than 3 million dollars from the budget without eliminating jobs.  City employees sat near me, even more anxious, seemingly unsure where things stood.

City Manager Mike Sedell began going through the proposed budget modifications line by line, with brief explanations of the impact of each decision.  For example, when we heard the DARE program was being cut, Sedell quickly clarified that the cut was not a permanent removal of the program, but rather a postponement.  DARE would begin again later in the year and the city would look at ways to reduce the expense.  Even Mayor Miller suggested having the program led by a retired officer rather than pulling an office out of the field.

Programs like Shop Simi Valley First will certainly be effected, though I can’t recall specifically whether or not it was mentioned that night at the council meeting.  In the past, I’ve been critical of the city’s spending on this program, not because the program itself is a bad one, but rather because I believe with the vested interest of business owners, the cost of the program should be a shared cost.  It will be interesting to see how organizations like the Chamber of Commerce step-up during this crisis to ensure the program stays alive.  It should be noted that if the city or the Chamber are looking for volunteers, here I am! 🙂

In economic situations like these, I couldn’t be more delighted to see how important it is to the city to retain their employees.  Unemployment is the harshest aspect of a recession, making things much worse before they get better.  The City of Simi Valley has done an amazing job of keeping people employed.  I read the following in the Ventura County Star the other day:

Some of the people in the positions eliminated already had planned to leave their jobs. Others were sent to different city assignments, officials said.

Simi is waiting for an eventual resolution to the state’s fiscal crisis, and “it will undoubtedly bring further damage to the revenue which we rely upon to provide services to our residents,” Sedell said.

Sedell said Simi officials have managed taxpayers’ resources well, and unlike state legislators, haven’t overspent.

“We will find a way to provide the quality local services that residents have come to expect,” Sedell said.

Read the whole article online here.

Cheers to the City of Simi Valley for a job well done.