Local News

Council majority approves budget cuts and use of federal relief funds

After being deadlocked for several meetings over whether to make budget cuts and how to allocate the nearly $33 million the City has received in federal relief funds (from the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA), a 3-2 Council majority (Zahra and Silva “no”) finally voted after 1am on Wednesday, December 8 to make 2.5% across-the-board budget cuts, and to use nearly $12 million of the relief funds to backfill government operations. This leaves $20.8 million for non-budgeted projects and programs.

The chosen budget scenario would leave a contingency reserve of around 17 percent.

City staff has not yet calculated a breakdown of how a 2.5% cut would impact staffing levels, but at an earlier study session, they estimated the impact of a 2% cut, which would be a reduction of 14 positions: six police, five fire, one administrative services, one library, 0.7 from community and economic development, and 0.5 from the City Clerk’s office.

The report states that these cuts, on top of current vacancies, would result in “significant negative impact on city service levels.”

This would be in addition to 37 positions already being held vacant, for a savings of $3.8 million annually. However, according to Acting City Manager Steve Danley, there are actually 110 additional vacancies on top of this 37.

According to a staff report, these cuts could also involve reductions in City services and programs, including closing Independence Park gym and racquetball building, eliminating the First Night in Fullerton event, the Fishing Derby, and the Tree Lighting Ceremony.

Councilmembers Jesus Silva and Ahmad Zahra did not support the 2.5% cut, citing the fact that city staff has already been diminished over the last year.

During the pandemic, the City laid off over 150 non-regular (part-time) employees and seven full-time employees. Many city departments lack a permanent head and are being run by interim or acting directors. This includes the City Manager, Parks and Rec, and Community and Economic Development.

Mayor Jung, Mayor Pro Tem Whitaker, and Councilmember Dunlap have consistently cited an ongoing structural budget deficit as the reason for wanting to make cuts. For example, the budget passed in June (prior to using ARPA funds) showed a $10 million deficit. Without using ARPA funds (which are one-time monies), budget projections show Fullerton depleting its reserves by fiscal year 2022/23.

City Council has recently allocated up to $1.3 million of ARPA funds to the Navigation Center for homeless beds for Fullerton residents and $150,000 to the Fullerton Museum Association.

During public comment, some residents and city employees spoke against budget cuts.

Ed Bargas, president of the Fullerton Municipal Employees Federation, said, “We maintain the parks, libraries, city hall, public works, and infrastructure. Please provide more revenue for us to keep up the services to the city.”

In January 2022, staff will return to Council to request they choose how to spend (which specific projects/programs) the $20.8M ARPA funds.

In February 2022, staff will return to Council with proposals and recommendations regarding how to specifically make the 2.5% cuts, whether it be operating expenditures and/or positions.

Fullerton City Hall. Photo by Jesse La Tour.

7 replies »

  1. Your analysis is spot on, very clearly stated. Thank you. Do Council members read these comments? It is a good way to take the temperature of the population.

    • So is yours, Ms. Creel.

      I agree with every point you made. I personally wouldn’t be opposed to a modest tax increase to bring Fullerton up to its former state of dignity, and educational and cultural engagement. I won’t go into the cynicism of city politics infiltrated by carpetbaggers. This is a matter of quality of life, which is slipping away. Fullerton is in danger of becoming ghettoized. We need people who care, and bring fresh ideas.

      Alternatively, I don’t suppose the dedicated municipal staff would consider an across-the-board 2.5% reduction in pay as an alternative to real people (not FTEs),losing there jobs? You know, the greater good and all that.

      OR…open your eyes. Bring revenue INTO the city. Legalize it, for God’s sake!

  2. “Mayor Jung, Mayor Pro Tem Whitaker, and Councilmember Dunlap have consistently cited an ongoing structural budget deficit as the reason for wanting to make cuts.”

    Here I agree with David:

    Everyone of the three ran in 2020 against a modest city sales tax AND were to some extent elected because of their opposition to it.

    So to a large extent, the city’s voters have now reaped what they sowed. The three were all elected in 2020 and thus have three more years of service (or “service”) to the city.

    And the magic number on the City Council is THREE. So if the three continue to stick together, we will have either (1) three more years of self-afflicted crippled local government, or (2) the block of three will come up with some way to recover previously normal services.

    There is honestly still a possibility for option #2. Both Jung and Dunlap have reputations for being quite sharp and were largely elected for their intelligence (combined with perhaps overpromising on frugality). And Whitaker has been on the Council forever and one can’t do that without having being both very smart and capable.

    But ideology doesn’t pay bills.

    Both accepting a modest sales tax to help pay for services that we all want or, in an emergency, asking the state for help seem like _sensible alternatives_ to self-imposing a Depression here in Fullerton for the sake of ideological purity.

  3. Considering that we had to vote within our geographical assignment, I didn’t have much choice. After reading Candidate Statements, I chose the candidate that seemed to have a common sense approach to city issues. It seems our City Council is a microcosm of the US Congress’s inability or unwillingness to honestly deliberate, and make compromises on policy choices that are best for all citizens. Some politicians speak out of both sides of their mouth – trying to please donors instead of citizens.

    • I didn’t have much choice.

      Not at all accurate. Of course you had plenty of choice – although you may not have liked the choices for whatever reason – but hey that’s the way it works. Each district in 2020 (1,2,4) had numerous candidates from which to choose.

  4. Fullerton certainly does NOT need cuts in City Services! When I moved here in 1976, Fullerton was a well-run city with many special amenities for families and adults.

    We have always had a top tier Public Library that was one of the highest per capita usage libraries in the US. Have cuts in their budget and personnel affected that position? Fullerton has an Educated population: Fullerton Community College, Hope University, Cal State Fullerton, and the Optometry College are major assets to our community.

    We have unique treasures in our city. The Fullerton Museum Center, the Muck, Hillcrest Park, Many playing field for soccer and baseball, Laguna Lake, Fullerton Equestrian Center, Miles of Bridle,Walking, Running Biking Trails, Craig Park and the Nature Preserve in Coyote Hills all supplement our amazing academic education Districts and give residents an attractive Quality of Life. These amenities make a city appealing to new residents and businesses. This is Fullerton! We need to treasure these places and make sure they are protected for the future .

    That brings up the proposed cut in the Business and Economic Growth Department. Economic Growth is our city’s life blood. Business shares the tax burden of Homeowners and Renters. We used to have a thriving Business community here that helped fund city necessities. Brea, La Habra and Yorba Linda are now attracting upscale shopping and restaurants, some businesses have left Fullerton for those greener pastures.

    What do we have? Long term abandoned stores and strip malls. (Vacant Save-on Drugstore and other small shops at Euclid and Rosecrans, Vacant CVS space at Euclid and Chapman come to my mind immediately.) Perhaps those locations could be repurposed?

    It seems that the City Council says yes to developers who want to build multi-family future Ghettos(no parkways and few trees), plain, unattractive boxes near the Train Station) or High End conspicuous Homes consuming the natural resources and open space of Coyote Hills.

    Surely there are other residents of Fullerton who are saddened by the condition of our City Services and the drawing power of Fullerton to attract business that would complement our Resident’s needs.

    Please, no more bars! They are a financial drain on the city budget, not a cash cow as the owners want us to believe. Perhaps it is time to publish on the City Website the figures measuring income from Bars along side tne cost to residents of Policing and cleaning the downtown area on weekends, Business owners in DTF are appalled by the filthy condition of sidewalks, store entries, etc. after the weekend of visitor’s misbehaving! Physical altercations and even killings have been quietly kept from our residents.

    I want to be proud of a dignified Fullerton. There is a rich heritage in the history of the growth and development of our City.

    What are some practical, possible, remedies that can be instituted by concerned Fullertonites? Please share your ideas in the Observer, and pass out copies to your neighbors so they know the health of our city. I know there are great ideas percolating in brains across the city. Can we encourage changes? An opportunity will soon be here – the City Council Election!

    We need someone with wisdom, decision making skills along with Leadership Experience and Common Sense, with no ties to funders that want to influence decisions for their own interests. Someone who wants to improve the state of government in Fullerton, not just climbing the political ladder to Board of Supervisors on to State Office. Know that person? Encourage them to throw their hat in the ring, and ask for support from regular people

    In the immortal words of “Bob the Builder”: Can we fix it?. . . . . .YES, we can!!