Reporter Rebecca Kimitch had this story out of El Monte in today’s paper. When I read the following lede, I almost fell out of my chair:
EL MONTE – The city’s budget deficit has ballooned to $4 million – 10 times larger than anticipated just a few weeks ago when voters approved a half-cent sales-tax increase.
How the heck did that happen? For months the city had been telling the public its budget deficit was around $400,000 – not good, but not as bad as some other cities. Now, all of a sudden they realize the deficit is actually in the several millions?
That sales-tax increase will do little to help the growing shortfall, officials said Tuesday, and the city is now studying employee layoffs, program cuts and sales of city assets.
Sales-tax revenues are down $2.7 million from what was expected when the City Council adopted the 2008-09 budget in July. In the second quarter alone, sales-tax revenue was down 17 percent compared to the previous year, according to city staff.
Staff will determine whether and how to implement department-wide layoffs; identify programs that can be eliminated, reduced or suspended; and identify city assets that can be sold.
They will present their findings to the City Council at its Dec. 16 and Jan. 13 meetings, and members will likely vote on specific actions to be taken, Mussenden said.
Meanwhile, some El Monte officials continue to rake in substantial salaries, including the city attorney and the city’s top tier police department officials. I wonder if their salaries will be taken into consideration when staff studies cost-cutting measures.
And the big question: how could the disconnect between the estimated shortfall and the realized shortfall be so vast?