City Budget — Protecting Taxpayers
As Vice Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem, Angelique Ashby helped deliver 5 balanced budgets for the City of Sacramento, protecting vital services and making City Departments do more with less. And Ashby played a key roll in getting concessions from public safety unions — the first step in addressing our long-term liabilities.
However, Sacramento faces years of budget challenges ahead. Currently, the city’s long-term liabilities are valued at approximately $2.2 billion, including retiree health benefits, pensions costs, and debt obligations that previous City Council’s failed to adequately fund. If unaddressed, rising employee costs will continue to place pressure on the city’s ability to deliver core services and invest in our aging public infrastructure. Our next mayor must work tirelessly to significantly reduce long-term liabilities, while working with our public safety unions to reduce costs and stem growing liabilities.
Here’s Angelique Ashby’s plan to address our city’s budget:
- Short-Term Priority: Renew Measure U: The successful passage of Measure U has allowed for the restoration of numerous core public services. Measure U is set to sunset in 2019, and the mayor and council will need to move quickly to renew the sales tax or identify dramatic budget reductions. As Mayor, Angelique Ashby will strongly support moving forward to renew Measure U. Sacramento starts to see excess balances in fiscal year 2021. As Mayor, Ashby will propose using excess proceeds to invest in affordable housing, address homelessness, support youth programs, gang prevention, after school programs, and parks and recreation — all of which contribute to supporting public safety.
- Reduce Long-Term Liabilities: The next mayor must work with our employee unions to address long-term liabilities. In 2014, Ashby played a critical role in gaining concessions from Police and Fire unions related to pensions and unfunded retiree health benefits. Due to Ashby’s efforts, both police and fire personnel are contributing the 12% employee contribution to PERS that was previously paid by the city, and reforms were instituted for new hires, including a cap in retiree health benefits. Additionally, the firefighters made great strides at reform by instituting a post retiree Health Benefits Savings Plan, mandating significant personal contributions to their post retiree benefits. As Mayor, Ashby will build on these efforts while working to manage labor costs to avoid service reductions.
- Long Term Stability Through Increased Tax Base: Create long-term fiscal sustainability by growing the tax base. Make Sacramento the easiest big city in California to invest in, start a company, and do business in. We must create our own high-wage jobs and consistently make it a priority to raise the average household income across the city.
Performance Based Budgeting
Working with the City Manager, City Council, and staff, we need to consider moving towards phasing in Performance Based Budgeting in Sacramento. Through a phased approach the City could begin implementing Performance Based Budgeting to specific City departments prior to a full scale overhaul of the City’s budgeting system, thereby utilizing information to guide resource allocation and departmental finances. Performance Based Budgeting will help strengthen the city’s objectives to:
- Increase accountability to taxpayers
- Bring more transparency to the budget process and city departments
- Improve and maximize efficiencies
- Reduce wasteful spending
Independent Auditor Office
Sacramento taxpayers will be best served by investing more resources in the City Auditor’s Office to conduct regular independent audits across all city departments, specialized program audits, and performance audits as well as providing information about the City’s operational finances, contracting, and expenditures. This is a vital step to make sure tax dollars are spent most effectively, departmental spending is appropriately scrutinized, and that the city is utilizing best practices to achieve operational and control objectives.
Independent Budget Analyst
An Independent Budget Analyst was hired by the City to comb through the budget for purposes of identifying funding sources not appropriately allocated, provide additional scrutiny for city spending, develop actions to help ensure departments are allocating resources most effectively, and make recommendations on appropriate actions such as refunds or recategorization to reduce outstanding debt. This is an important position that should be permanent in Sacramento.
Make City Budget Accessible Online
The public deserves an open process in City Budgeting, and that starts with putting the entire City Budget online with a pro-active and user-friendly process for the public to access records and see how their tax dollars are being spent. A good example is Austin, Texas’s “Austin Finance Online.” An effective online portal improves budget transparency and ensures city department budgets are more transparent, accountable, and accessible.