Letters to the Editor - Vicky Neibauer (April 2012)
The Cameron Park CSD had a budget workshop last night. Didn’t know? Well, don’t fret. It appears that with only the quick mention of it at last month’s general board meeting, not a whole lot of folks did know. There will certainly be more. Hopefully, the board will see that more notice is given for the next one.
Regardless, there we sat, the seven of us representing the whole of Cameron Park listening to the "good news." The district staff projects that we will come in on budget this year. No matter that the Community Center is projected to end the year with a shortfall of about $180,000. Yes, a loss of about $180,000. Even so, I do hope that what appear to be optimistic projections through the haze of midnight oil do materialize.
Then the bad, the district, at first blush, will be about $135,000 in the red for next year. Of course, there will be more workshops to address this shortfall. Staff, specifically, the general manager, can speak only to revenue opportunities to fix this issue. Interesting, in this time of economic downturn, one can speak only to revenues with not one breath to cost-cutting measures. In fact, when asked, the GM informed the board, she really didn’t see where there were any opportunities for "cost saving" measures. Oh, but wait, her one "cost saving" measure is to open the pool to the public later this season while continuing to provide access to the swim team. What?
The GM’s budget recommendation to the board includes two additional permanent staff with full benefits, step increases for staff, increased benefits for new hires, additional temporary help and more to come as we painfully dig them out of the weeds one by one. The GM is correct. No cost savings measures here.
Here's the the unfortunate truth. Last night we watched the general manager highlight cleary that the board, at least the four gentlemen on the board, serve at her pleasure, not the other way around. Until the board leads the district as it should which includes the GM, the community of Cameron Park will continue to be plagued by poor leadership, policy and fiscal issues in the district. I truly believe Cameron Park is a "special place to live" but for how much longer with so much nonsense going on and on and on.
Editorial: "Budgeting on the Mind at Cameron Park CSD" By Dawn Hodson (May 2012)
The swimming pool at the Cameron Park Community Services District was crowded with happy youngsters on Monday night. But inside at the district board meeting, the atmosphere was more somber as board members struggled to come up with a budget for the next fiscal year.
The initial part of the meeting was spent as a budget workshop and then resumed as a regular district board meeting. Normally the board meets on Wednesday but because Greg Stanton was unavailable, they moved the meeting to Monday at his request.
Staff reported that the district is projected to end the year with a surplus of $250,000, most of which will come from savings in the fire department's budget. Suggested ways for using the surplus included $25,000 towards the Community Center budget; $25,000 for the fire equipment fund; $20,000 towards the Parks budget; $100,000 to help balance next year's budget; and $30,000 towards a Park and Recreation Master Plan and Fire Review. However since the amount of the surplus is still a projection, no decisions were made on how to use carryover fund.
One resident suggested that instead of hiring someone to create a Park and Recreation Master Plan, that volunteers be used. Bill Randall said he and others had been part of local advisory planning committees and the district could follow the same route and save itself the cost of hiring a consultant.
The board then moved on to discuss next year's budget which is projected at $4.9 million dollars. Board president Shiva Frentzen stated that they now need to take into account that they will receive $100,000 less in property taxes than originally projected.
General Manager Mary Cahill offered several ideas for saving almost $178,000 in the next fiscal year. Included in the suggestions were closing the lagoon which would save $45,000. However Cahill said doing so would remove a popular amenity and if the board later decided to reopen it, they might find it difficult to get approval to do so because of environmental concerns. Other suggestions included closing some open space parks, reducing security patrols, eliminating district provided paramedic services, reducing money spent responding to graffiti and vandalism and reducing the swim program.
However those suggested cost savings did not sit well with either the public or members of the board. In particular, eliminating paramedic services.
Resident Barbara Rogers complained that, "We are a small agency and no better than the City of Sacramento. I don't care what you have to close, but don't touch our fire services. In Sacramento they have to hold a fundraiser to keep their pool open so cry me a river. When are you going to get tough and make the General Manager cut her budget? When are you going to get serious?"
Vicky Neibauer, a local resident and a senior budget analyst for Sacramento County, said the board should be putting aside 1 percent of its budget for deferred maintenance. She also said that new legislation may require that the pool install a lift for the disabled and that cost needed to be factored into the budget.
Frentzen then asked Cahill to come back with a new plan that factors in $100,000 less in expected property tax revenue and builds in a reserve. She also suggested that another budget workshop was needed before the next regular board meeting in June.
Also discussed at the district board meeting was an update on the dog park being built in Hacienda Park and support for two mutual aid agreements with other agencies.
Copy of speech given by Vicky Neibauer to the Board at one of the 2012-13 Budget Workshops (May/June 2012)
Good afternoon, All.
I want to thank you all for helping to make last night’s meeting focused and productive. I want to especially single out Denise’s hard work. We’ve been asking for a lot of numbers lately and she has been especially responsive and well prepared when we bombard her with our many questions.
Mary also did a great job of laying out the Board’s budget options. I also agree with Mary that the correct option for the Board to choose is to RESPONSIBLY INVEST IN GROWTH AND STABILITY OF THE DISTRICT and I recommend the Board strongly consider formally adopting the key Operational Standards that Mary laid out last night. They are an excellent foundation for a stable and healthy organization if implemented and adhered to in an environment of trust and collaborative leadership.
Where I think we change paths is on the definition of ‘RESPONSIBLY’. Yes, El Dorado County is positioning itself to move forward WHEN the economic turndown truly changes direction and not just settles in and stagnates, but by NO means are they in a hiring pattern or growth of any kind. If fact, they are in a ‘right sizing’ (vs downsizing ;-}} mode, renegotiating employee contracts/benefits, searching for efficiencies, and economizing just as the rest of us in like organizations are.
Certainly we should position ourselves for the future but by no means should we get ahead of ourselves as we perhaps may have with our Community Center. We must strategize, make the best use of the resources we have available to us now and carefully balance the benefits against the costs of the decisions we are making for the community of Cameron Park and if that sounds over the top or a bit dramatic for our small, sleepy community so be it…It is your responsibility as Board Members at this point in time and it’s just that serious.
Given the property tax revenues come in as projected, we will have experienced a one year upswing in property tax collections. Meanwhile in this year, people are generally buying at prices which some of the real estate information I receive indicates still may not have hit bottom, if they’re buying at all, with no end in sight for the foreseeable future. What this means is more reassessments at lower home valuations, lower property taxes, lower CSD revenues, and the cycle continues. One isolated upswing year with very real indications of further declines DOES NOT make a trend nor does it equate to the ability to ‘RESPONSIBLY INVEST IN GROWTH AND STABILITY OF THE DISTRICT ‘.
Should the revenues come in this year as projected and again next year, I will be holding the other end of the banner with Mary waving away. AND please remember, you as Board members can make midyear budget modifications any time during the year you believe them to be warranted. You are not making a decision that cannot be revisited when you have more information.
My recommendations given last night’s discussions:
• No additional permanent positions. Save the cost of benefits, unemployment when required, etc. Lots of alternatives such as interns (Sac State, Folsom CC, etc.).
• No changes in benefits, COLA’s other employee costs until MOU’s with current employees are revisited and settled.
• Move the surplus associated with the Fire operations (approximately at $287,000) to the Fire Capital Outlay Fund for future Capital Outlay.
• Budget the remaining to Contingency approximately $80,000 (1%-3% Best Business Practice).
Letters to the Editor - Vicky Neibauer (June 2012)
The Cameron Park CSD now has an approved budget for the coming fiscal year starting July 1 with a structural deficit of at least $113,265 funded by savings from deferred Fire Program capital expenditures such as engines and other safety equipment and maintenance. The exact amount of the deficit will not be known until sometime after June 30 when the District completes its year end accounting process.
This coming fiscal year’s $4,988,599 budget includes two additional fulltime, permanent positions with full benefits and other discretionary spending and is more than 13.8% greater than the spending expectations for the current fiscal year to end June 30. The CSD Board approved this 13.8% spending increase with flat property tax revenue expectations while El Dorado County and others are looking to a 1% property tax decline.
At the General Board Meeting on June 20, Board Member Greg Stanton said “Come September, if the money is not there, we will make the cuts needed.” My question is, why are we spending money we do not have in hand? Is that not exactly the game that has gotten this Country into the financial mess it finds itself in today? If September is such a short time to wait to see ‘if the money is not there’ then surely it is not too long a time to wait TO BE SURE THE MONEY IS TRULY THERE TO SPEND!
During the same discussion, Stanton also suggested it was important to give the District and the General Manager the tools with which to do the job of running the district including the two new permanent positions. Yet, these two positions are to be held unfilled until September for review by the Board. A tool indeed, like a shovel with only the handle and no spade. In addition, approved positions without funding can lead to unintended financial results in the future when the details of approval become faded and susceptible to current circumstance.
Again, I ask, if September is such a short time to wait to see ‘if the money is not there’ then surely it is not too long to wait TO BE SURE THE MONEY IS TRULY THERE TO SPEND!
Letters to the Editor - Vicky Neibauer (June 2012)
Immediately upon opening the May board meeting, Cameron Park CSD Board President Shiva Frentzen read an e-mail written by board member Scott McNeil with district counsel, staff and the public present. McNeil had "safety concerns" for himself, staff, women and children who attend CSD Board meetings indicating he felt "intimidated" by Gerald Lillpop's abrasive demeanor when addressing the board. Imagine being intimidated by a citizen’s demeanor in a board meeting when you yourself need to be physically restrained by another board member during a public address to the board. Perhaps a bit of the pot calling the kettle black, don't you think?
As a recent news article reported, during the May CSD meeting, an agitated McNeil repeatedly interrupted Frentzen as she tried to read his e-mail. At one point, McNeil said, Frentzen was "embarrassing herself and the board" and at another point McNeil asked if Frentzen was "in her right mind?" This is not the first time McNeil has questioned Frentzen’s abilities with the board in session and the public present. In addition, McNeil accused Frentzen of violating the Brown Act by discussing a matter discussed earlier in Closed Session.
First, Frentzen had no choice but to address the "safety concern" once McNeil brought it to her attention in writing and to address the "safety concern" immediately and directly upon opening the meeting to the public so the issue could be properly vetted and resolved with all parties present. One of Frentzen’s responsibilities as current board president of the CSD is to provide leadership and a safe environment for the safety of the board members, staff and the public during the board meetings. Her action was no different than an announcement at the beginning of the meeting pointing to an unsafe condition in the building such as a wet floor or open construction area so that all those in the meeting are aware and can take proper precautions. Again, the imminent threat to health and safety warrants the public discussion immediately upon opening the meeting as a safety issue whether the issue is on the agenda or not. Shiva also took the opportunity to engage Lillpop and ask that he be more respectful in the future.
Second is the accusation of a Brown Act violation. No member of the public in that meeting knew of any prior discussions and certainly not of any discussion of Lillpop’s behavior in Closed Session until McNeil spoke of it. So please, if there has been a violation of the Brown Act, file the proper request for an investigation and be done with it. There is a serious wrong here that must be resolved that goes far beyond this nonsense and that is that the Cameron Park community continues to suffer from the lack of functional leadership and representation on the board. Currently, the district faces an approximate $100,000 to $300,000 budget shortfall in Fiscal Year 2012-13 depending on who’s counting. Yet, after three budget workshops, we are no closer to a balanced budget than when we started.
Scott, quit the divisive, argumentative and, frankly, childish behavior. Your continued unprofessionalism, meeting after meeting, is unforgivable and beyond an embarrassment to yourself, the board and the community. And to the other three gentlemen on the board, your silence is equally as disturbing and disingenuous.
The Cameron Park community deserves better than the CSD Board dysfunction they are currently experiencing. The Cameron Park community interests should come first as each board member, no doubt, promised when they were elected.
Editorial "CPCSD Approves Budget" By Dawn Hodson (June 2012)
CAMERON PARK RESIDENT Bill Carey brought a controversial sign to the Cameron Park Community Services District meeting Wednesday night, causing board members to walk out. Democrat photo by Dawn Hodson
The board of the Cameron Park Community Services District adopted a budget for the next fiscal year at its meeting Wednesday night.
After three budget workshops, including one on Monday, and endless complaints from the public about deficit spending, the board voted 4 to 1 to accept a budget that has a projected deficit of $113,265 but which will be covered by using contingency funds. The new budget anticipates revenues of $4,875,334 and expenses of $4,988,599. Board President Shiva Frentzen cast the lone no vote.
The district also projects it will end this fiscal year with a deficit of $201,380, which is being covered primarily by savings in the budget of the fire department contract.
Adoption of the budget and other board business was put on hold temporarily because of an incident earlier in the evening.
Resident David Gelbert chastised board member Scott McNeil for the way he treated Board President Shiva Frentzen at Monday's budget workshop.
While Gelbert spoke, resident Bill Carey placed a sign in front of the podium which said, "McNiel, are you of sound mind tonite?"
Board members then requested that Carey remove the sign and voted 4 to 1 that he do so, with Frentzen voting no.
"Welcome to the people's republic of Cameron Park," Carey said.
When Carey didn't remove the sign, board members got up one by one and left the room followed by their legal counsel. General Manager Mary Cahill then tried to remove the sign but was blocked.
Carey said that he made the sign in response to what happened at Monday's budget committee meeting when McNeil turned to Frentzen and asked if she was in her right mind. "I felt she had been insulted and in effect he was saying that she was crazy," Carey said. The board members returned 10 minutes later and Frentzen asked Carey to remove the sign and keep it next to him. Carey did so and then went to the podium to accuse the rest of the board of not supporting Frentzen. "At the Monday meeting McNeil said Shiva was out of her mind. But none of you pinheads did anything. You're a bunch of nutless wonders."
Residents had previously urged the board not to adopt the proposed budget both at the budget workshops and at the Wednesday night meeting.
"I want to remind you of what you're doing," said resident Vicky Neibauer. "If you pass this budget it has a huge hole in it. The district has gone from negative net assets in 2010 of $109,500 to negative assets now of $365,000. It's likely you're going to see more deterioration of your budget position. You plan to add two staff positions even though you're facing an operational shortfall. You have the opportunity to truly balance the budget by pulling these two positions. You should make the decision to live within your means and then in September re-evaluate the budget. I urge you to do the responsible thing.
" Other residents echoed Neibauer's comments. Gelbert asked, "When will the board realize that government at every level is contracting? Why do you think you can expand the staff here? You want two full-time fully benefited staff and have no way to pay for these positions. Why go down that road? Use a temp agency."
Frentzen then offered a motion to cut park and community center expenses by 10 percent in the new budget in addition to making other changes to the proposed budget. However the motion failed for lack of a second.
Cahill reminded the board that the position of Recreation Coordinator was already a budgeted position and a new person had been hired and was starting July 1. She also said a permanent employee was needed at the front counter because of all the turnover experienced when they hired temp employees.
Board member Greg Stanton responded to the comments from the public by saying that the community center has no revenue stream other than from activities held there. "Cameron Park is built out unless we annex more property so we will see no additional revenue from property taxes. We are raising revenue by doing a better job of marketing the center and holding more events here," he said. "Come September, if the money is not there, we will make the cuts needed."
In a related action, the board also adopted new waste disposal rates after a presentation by Sue VanDelinder of El Dorado Disposal. She said higher rates were needed because of a rise in the consumer price index and because of changes in the law requiring recycling compliance by commercial customers. Residential rates will rise 2.65 percent except for those receiving the senior rate. That will remain flat. Commercial rates will rise 9 percent. The new rates will take effect July 1 and were unanimously adopted by the board.
Letters to the Editor - Vicky Neibauer (June 2012)
Monday night the Cameron Park CSD Board, with President Frentzen the lone "No" vote, agreed to move a budget to Wednesday's General Meeting for final approval. This budget includes a deficit of more than $110,000 to be funded by an expected surplus from this year's operations. The majority of this surplus, $315,303 of $326,186, is from the Fire Operations, mainly salary savings from unforeseen position vacancies and contractual services.
This budget is funded with property tax revenues assumed to be flat although El Dorado County has projected and has included a 1 percent decrease in their property tax revenue assumptions for the coming year. If our CSD experiences this 1 percent decline in property taxes, the deficit will grow to over $145,000. This deficit is built into the budget without even one day passing in the new Fiscal Year.
In the face of this deficit, the board majority approved two new full-time permanent positions with full benefits and other discretionary expenditures. The costs of these two full-time positions will be ongoing and will continue year to year without regard for changes in property tax revenues. In fact, these costs will likely increase based on longevity and perhaps cost of living increases should these be negotiated with labor representation.
Last night one board member suggested that last year the budget was passed with a similar "deficit" and that at least this year's deficit is less than the last and shows improvement. It is my understanding that last year's deficit may have been passed without full knowledge and explanation.
Whether there was a deficit last year is neither relevant nor support for last night's board actions.
This board, clearly and with well-debated deliberations, again with President Frentzen the lone No vote, agreed to start the new fiscal year with a budget deficit of more than $110,000 to be funded by a surplus that has yet to be realized and is only an estimate at that.
All in all, a classic picture of fiscal irresponsibility and poor leadership.
The Cameron Park community deserves better.
Letters to the Editor - Vicky Neibauer (July 2012)
The Cameron Park CSD now has an approved budget for the coming fiscal year starting July 1 with a structural deficit of at least $113,265 funded by savings from deferred fire program capital expenditures such as engines and other safety equipment and maintenance. The exact amount of the deficit will not be known until sometime after June 30 when the district completes its year-end accounting process.
This coming fiscal year’s $4,988,599 budget includes two additional full-time, permanent positions with full benefits and other discretionary spending and is more than 13.8 percent greater than the spending expectations for the current fiscal year to end June 30. The CSD board approved this 13.8 percent spending increase with flat property tax revenue expectations while El Dorado County and others are looking to a 1 percent property tax decline.
At the general board Meeting on June 20, Board member Greg Stanton said, “Come September, if the money is not there, we will make the cuts needed.”
My question is, Why are we spending money we do not have in hand? Is that not exactly the game that has gotten this country into the financial mess it finds itself in today? If September is such a short time to wait to see “if the money is not there” then surely it is not too long a time to wait to be sure the money is truly there to spend.
During the same discussion, Stanton also suggested it was important to give the district and the general manager the tools with which to do the job of running the district, including the two new permanent positions. Yet, these two positions are to be held unfilled until September for review by the board.
A tool indeed, like a shovel with only the handle and no spade. In addition, approved positions without funding can lead to unintended financial results in the future when the details of approval become faded and susceptible to current circumstance.
Again, I ask, if September is such a short time to wait to see “if the money is not there” then surely it is not too long to wait to be sure the money is truly there to spend.