MIA: Financial Consultants’ Report

Let’s first link you to Mac’s excellent analysis of the report from financial consultants Executive Partners, Inc. (EPI) that came out this week. You will remember that the city has paid them $60,000 for their expertise and the article answers the question of whether we’ve gotten our money’s worth. Go for the context; stay to give your two cents.

I’m going to talk about Monday. Here’s something that doesn’t make sense. The Committee of the Whole meeting agenda contains items concerning the FY2010 budget and even the new police station, but not the EPI report or even how EPI recommendations relate to these other items.

For example, here are the options presented in the CoW agenda regarding police station options:

Alternative One: Proceed with the project. Schedule a series of meetings to move the project forward, starting first with a discussion and decision on the construction delivery method, a final resolution on the utility bill surcharge, design of the project, and then bids, bid awards, and construction.

Alternative Two: Postpone all further action until such time as the economic climate improves. In this alternative, direction is requested on whether we should continue with the implementation of the July 1 increase of 0.5% in the restaurant/bar tax to help fund the Public Safety Building Fund for use at a future date, or whether this tax increase should also be postponed to a later date. (Note that by assessing this increased tax, the Council would be addressing the large standing concern that the City has never adequately saved money for its future public building needs.) If the R/B tax is to stay intact, then direction is requested on whether the City should use the proceeds to make the site “construction ready” with soil borings, utility line relocation, and other site related matters.

Alternative Three: Postpone the project indefinitely. Instead, begin discussions on interim and short term space needs. These include possible additions to the current municipal building or the use of temporary mobile office units, or the remodeling and reprogramming of existing space for use by the Police Department and other affected departments.

My emphasis was added to alternatives #2 and #3, seeing as the EPI report weighed in on the police station but you wouldn’t know it unless you’ve read it.

While the debt per capita is relatively low, EPI does not recommend the issuance of new debt until the City has stabilized its operating budget. Once the City has a financial plan that is sustainable and will produce balanced operating budgets, with proper reserves, then additional debt may be considered. At this time, EPI recommends that the City put the Police Station building plans on hold, and consider a lower cost alternative of hiring a space planner to evaluate the Municipal Building and Annex to see if the staff can be accommodated in those two buildings by remodeling existing spaces to achieve greater efficiencies. [p. 162.]

It’s a pretty big oversight not to mention the financial consultants’ suggestion to put the project on hold and WHY. I think those are important pieces of information and should have been included. Ditto the news from the Chronicle that the city is trying to get all the unions to agree to a one-year wage freeze, which is also an EPI recommendation.

A wage freeze is a significant concession. It begs the question what the city might be offering for it.

But I digress. The larger question is why the EPI report has not been discussed publicly, yet decisions apparently have already been made about which recommendations the city will follow.