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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

On Monday, 24, 2017 in an all day budget workshop city council had the opportunity to review and ask questions of about half of the city’s departmental budgets. The remaining departmental budgets will be reviewed on Friday, April 28, 2017. If you would like to see the proposed Glendale departmental budget please use this link: Budget Ap 24 2017 POWERPOINT .

Generally this year’s departmental budgets are very clean. By that I mean that whatever budget increases were proposed could be justified. The biggest drivers of this year’s departmental budgets can be attributed to several factors: across the board employees received a 2.5% increase in pay and in almost every budget fire & liability insurance costs were up. For the first time some departments received a new line item for technology charges and those who were already charged for technology saw increases in this charge…in some instances… doubled.

Keep in mind no department’s budget ever starts at zero. Presently the city does not use zero-based budgeting. I have introduced it as a Council Item of Special Interest. Last year’s budget number for each department is the starting point upon which each department’s budget is based and each department’s budget is increased, decreased or remains static beyond last year’s number.

Over the past two fiscal years the departments council reviewed on Monday have seen increases in FY 2016-17 and FY 2017-18 totaling:

  • City Attorney                              14.96%
  • Police Services                            12.47%
  • Development Services                 23.90%
  • City Auditor                                13.86%
  • City Court                                  20.09%
  • Fire Department                           6.61%
  • Human Resources/Risk Mgmt      10.72%
  • Community Services                   -1.89%

The only department in this review to see a modest decrease in its budget is Community Services with a 1.89% decrease. This department is almost completely dependent on grants, especially federal grants like the Community Development Block Grant (this funds many of the services and programs offered to the poor and economically disadvantaged). So as these grants diminish slightly, so, too, does its budget.  This department has been advised by the federal Housing and Urban Development Authority (HUD) to prepare for as much as a 20% decrease in certain federal grants.

I have taken the liberty of noting some of the changes to various departmental budgets. In the City Attorney’s office there is the addition of an assistant city prosecutor. The addition of this full time employee (FTE) is to meet the increased demands of caseloads within the city’s court. The office has a line item of $200,000 for the use of outside attorneys (consultants). This amount increased from the $135,000 granted in last year’s budget.

In Police Services the newly appointed Police Chief Richard St. John is working aggressively to fill all authorized patrol positions. Currently there are only 8 unfilled authorized and funded patrol positions. That is the lowest number I have seen in years. Through attrition during each year the city loses about 20 officers. The focus for GPD this coming year will be on speeding enforcement. It is also the Chief’s goal to reduce beat sizes within the city as soon as practicable.

Development Services includes 3 departments – building safety, code compliance and planning. The number of FTEs in Code Compliance will increase by 2.5. Despite the implementation of new strategies in the use of employees’ time and effort within Code, it is still not performing as well as hoped. I think it is time for a city council workshop to do an in depth review of code. The fact that Saturdays are not covered optimally is a cause for concern as yard sales, as an example, can only be covered on weekends. I am concerned that with development picking up considerably within the city (there are more than 8 residential development projects in the pipeline at this time) and as the economy continues to improve, the planning department does not have enough manpower to perform in a timely and effective manner.

The City Auditor department, despite its increase in funding over the past two fiscal years, seems to be static in terms of productivity and the number of audits performed annually.

In the City Court its latest initiative, the Mental Health Court, has grown dramatically. Even though our City Court has met mandated Arizona Supreme Court times for closing cases, it is disappointing to see the resolution of traffic cases within 60 days drop from 93% to an 80% rate.

Fire Department Chief Terry Garrison reported on the success of the pilot project of employing Low Acuity (LA) vehicles and 2 man staffs to respond to ordinary, non critical emergency medical calls. This initiative is long overdue. Instead of sending big trucks (with the resultant O&M costs) Glendale is using

LA vehicles to answer non-critical medical calls freeing up fire resources and avoiding the tremendous costs associated with sending ladder trucks. They should be all over the city since 80% of the calls answered by the Fire Department are medical emergency calls…but they are not.

 These Low Acuity, two man units are not part of the Automatic Aid system for as it states in Section 9.1 of the Automatic Aid agreement, “System participants recognize the importance of service delivery and personnel safety issues. The minimum daily staffing level for engines and ladders shall be four members. Henceforth this will be referred to as full staffing.”

I would love to see the fire department develop 4 man, High Acuity vehicles to respond to critical, emergencies especially when one sees the statistics. In 2017, the fire department responded to 1,220 fire related calls – everything from a structure fire to a BBQ grill fire. During the same year it answered 29,900 advanced life support or basic life support medical calls.

Another alarming statistic is this. Under the Automatic Aid Agreement on 4,300 occasions another city’s fire department responded to an emergency call in Glendale. That’s great, isn’t it? You bet it is. The closest fire unit is responding and perhaps saving your life or the life of a loved one. But there is a flip side to that coin. Glendale responded to 6,600 emergency calls in other cities, like Phoenix or Peoria. These 6,600 calls were outside of Glendale. There is an imbalance that is costing you money. In essence, Glendale taxpayers subsidize emergency services for other cities. Of the 31,120 calls to which Glendale fire responded in 2017, 7% were outside of Glendale. I believe that firefighters must answer the call in or out of Glendale but I also believe that it is time that Glendale should be reimbursed for any calls above parity. Do you think Glendale should subsidize the 2,300 calls answered in Phoenix or Peoria?

Interim Director of Community Services, Elaine Adamczyk, was an impressive presenter of her department’s budget. As an Interim Director she had an amazing grasp of all facets of her department. This is a department that saw a 1.89% decrease over two years. That is understandable. This department is almost entirely composed of grant funds such as the federal Community Development Block Fund (CDBG). If grants dry up or diminish in size, this budget reflects those changes. Ms. Adamczyk advised city council that the federal Housing and Urban Development Department has advised all grantees that the amount of grant funds could be reduced by as much as 20%.

The last department of the day to present its budget was Human Resources & Risk Management. Its responsibilities are many and varied. Perhaps one of the most critical areas for the organization is its process for hiring new employees or filling vacant positions. Many believe the process takes far too long. If a department head has done a lot of preparation work it is possible to fill a vacancy or new hire within 60 days. Often it takes much longer than that. If a new employee or vacancy were to be filled in the private sector, it can often be accomplished within a matter of a few weeks because that position often has a direct effect on a company’s profitability or lack thereof.

On Friday’s, April 28, 2017, all day budget session, department budgets to be reviewed will be Public Facilities & Events, Economic Development, Public Affairs, Mayor& Council, Innovation & Technology, City Manager’s Office, City Clerk, Water Services and Public Works.

If you have Cox Cable, you can watch the session live on Channel 11 beginning at 9 AM. You can also watch it live online by going to www.glendaleaz.com then clicking on Channel 11 TV in the left column, then clicking again on Watch Channel 11 Live on the left column.

© Joyce Clark, 2017               

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This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Instead of its regular meeting time of 1:30 PM the Tuesday, August 20, 2013 council workshop meeting will convene at 9 AM. The 64 million dollar question is will Councilmember Alvarez show up or call in? She’s on the injured reserve list once again. If she does show will pain medication affect her performance or lack thereof?

They will begin with an Executive Session to meet the candidates for the City Attorney’s position. Do we know how many finalists? Do we know who they are? At least when the City Manager’s position was up for grabs we knew a smidgeon about the finalists. This time there is a cone of silence.

prayerThe most interesting and possibly contentious issue for open workshop discussion is to pray or not to pray at the start of the evening meeting. FYI: Only Phoenix has prayer before its council meeting. The cities of Gila Bend, Winslow, Apache Junction, Litchfield Park, Benson and Florence have invocations before their meetings. What’s the difference between an invocation and a prayer? According to the dictionary an invocation is the act of asking for help or support from anyone or anything.  A prayer is a spiritual communion with God or an object of worship. Is it appropriate to start council meetings with a prayer? You can weigh in by participating in my unscientific poll to the left of this article. This issue could become a moot point of discussion as this fall the Supreme Court will take up the issue of prayer at town meetings as it hears the Greece, New York case.

After their discussion of prayer council will move into another Executive Session where once again they will receive information about the external audit. Apparently the audit has been completed. If that is the case, it’s time to let the citizens of Glendale review the result. After all, taxpayers paid a hefty price for it – a half million dollars. It should be presented to all on a gold plated serving tray! Come on, council, it’s time to give it up and direct staff to post the results on the city’s website.

The other item of note in Esession is discussion of the IceArizona management agreement. What could this be about? The council approved the contract with IceArizona with its public vote on July 2, 2013 followed by the sale of the team by the NHL to IceArizona.  Is the contract still under negotiation?  That is the only way it can be discussed in Esession. Here is the exact verbiage used: “Discussion and consultation with the City Attorney and the City Manager to receive an update, consider its position and provide instruction and direction to the City Attorney and the City Manager regarding Glendale’s position in connection with agreements associated with arena management, the Arena, and the Hockey Team, which are the subject of negotiations (bold emphasis mine). [A.R.S 38-431.03(A)(3)(4)(7)].” Note that discussion is permitted in Esession while the negotiations are in progress but negotiations were concluded with council’s vote on July 2nd. Hmmmm…

©Joyce Clark, 2013

FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to:http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

External Audit coming…

auditAt the Tuesday, March 26, 2013 City Council meeting an agenda item will be a vote of approval to hire Haralson, Miller, Pitt, Feldman & McAnally (HMPM), P.I.C., a law firm, to perform the special external audit this council has been craving. It doesn’t come cheap. The cost of this contract is $200,000. HMPM will subcontract out some of the work to Butler, FFG, and ESI. It is not clear from the staff report what would be the scope or responsibility of any of these firms. It is also not clear what their specialties are.

The costs per hour range from a high of $400.00 per hour for a principal to $100.00 per hour for a paralegal/law clerk.  Simple math shows that the number of hours billable for this contract range from 500 hours (about 12 ½ weeks) to 2,000 hours (about 50 weeks). This exercise could be completed in 3 months to a year. I think we can expect it to be completed this summer.

This is not a budgeted item and is not included in the current Fiscal Year 2012-13 adopted budget. That means that the money will have to be allocated from somewhere in the budget. Look for the payment of this contract to come from the $17M set aside for an arena lease management agreement. By the time this council’s agenda is met we won’t see much of the $17M left to pay anyone to manage the arena.

Bowers

Dick Bowers
Courtesy of
Linked In

A new Acting City Manager…

Expect at this same council meeting the hiring of Mr. Richard Bowers, former Scottsdale City Manager, as Glendale’s Interim City Manager until the search and hiring of a permanent city manager is completed.

A new Acting City Attorney…

Expect the council to approve Mr. Nick Depiazza, current Chief Deputy City Attorney, as the Interim City Attorney, until a permanent City Attorney is found and hired.

Budget meetings slated for this coming week…

On Wednesday, March 27, 2013 and Thursday, March 28, 2013, council will participate in two budget workshopsbudget 3 starting at 9am each day. This year’s budget workshop book is a hefty 284 pages of reading guaranteed to entertain and delight. Just crank up your printer, go to the Glendale website, find the agendas under the City Clerk’s page and you can print your very own copy just as I did. If you know where to look you will be able to spot the shifts in policy based upon where this council allocates available resources.

coins 1Still looming is how this council will address the loss of $22M in revenue currently being earned by the sales tax increase slated to sunset in 2017. The general feeling among council is that the city will have recovered by then and will easily absorb the $22M loss in sales tax revenue. There appears to be no will to be fiscally prudent and continue with cuts in anticipation of that loss of revenue. If they do not have the will to make gradual cuts each year for the next four years, they will be forced by circumstance to make draconian cuts in 2017. It’s very simple; karma catches up to you every time.

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