On June 18, Contra Costa Supervisor Karen Mitchoff (Pleasant Hill, D-IV) spoke to the East Bay Leadership Council (see slideshow) to present an update on the State of the County. There’s been good news and not so good news, since, so Halfway To Concord asked Mitchoff to bring us up to date.
We got great news last week from Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer. Overall assessed value countywide went up 9%, or $13.3B. In some communities it went up even greater than 9%. That’s $8-10M to the General Fund, perhaps lower. So I’m sure some people think we can go right out and spend all that money, but we just can’t.
We need to manage the public’s expectations as well as those of various stakeholders. It’s not extra money, it’s just money we didn’t plan on getting. The board has asked the County administrator to come back with a report at the end of the month with his ideas on where some of those dollars should be spent.
I know the grand jury wants us to fund a new emergency operations center that’s in the purview of the Sheriff, so that’s something that might be targeted.
Another project could be helping launch Laura’s Law in Contra Costa. Named after a young lady who was murdered in Nevada County by a mentally ill person, Laura’s Law helps adults with mental issues get back into treatment, taking their meds or some sort of assisted outpatient treatment.
In California we are very civil rights, and if you don’t take your medication you shouldn’t have to take your medication, but the cost of that is you got mentally ill people shooting and killing people like in Santa Barbara. The costs to incarcerate, prosecute, jail and/or hospitalize people is much more expensive than if you can put the money up front. It can take a Concord policeman a whole day to process a homeless transient or consider the not only expense of Emergency Responders but the drain on that service capacity.
Funding initiatives like Laura’s Law can make an impact in how it reduces law enforcement costs because it puts significant resources at the beginning of the process and to address these issues and help people to stay on the medication, to want to participate in programs. But the money just hasn’t been there for Laura’s Law other than in the mental health budget, and for years we have said to mental health advocates there’s only so much in the pot and if we fight for for Laura’s Law it takes away from other mental health project.
For instance, Supervisor Gioia is concerned about that we need more deputies in unincorporated North Richmond that needs better community policing, which is the Sheriff. I agree that we need more deputies there, but I’d also like to see some more deputies out in the unincorporated areas of East County. Plus better staffing overall will also mitigate problems with overtime.
It can really help Contra Costa County Fire. It won’t erase the structural deficit but will help as we figure out what we need to do did to get it to be a sustainable budget and service model.
We just can’t say, ‘let’s put 50 Deputies out of the street,’ because we need to be able to fund those 50 Deputies next year, too; and the years after.
So that’s why we tasked the County Administrator to come forward with report on what he sees as very high priority issues and critical staffing areas, especially in Public Safety.
Once again Contra Costa County has a structurally balanced budget for fiscal 2014-15 year. We have regained our AAA rating from Standard & Poor’s due in large part to David Twa, our County Administrator who, worked with our departments to keep their budgets in line, and also our labor organizations with good contracts in hand.
Regaining that Standard & Poor’s rating helps us with our bonds and can save interest expense down the road. We’re not planning on going out to spend the money right now, because you never know what the future holds or what catastrophe can happen next.
Employee Contract Negotiation
We’ve finished negotiations with all of our Contra Costa County public employee organizations whose contracts had expired as of June 30, July 1, 2013. It’s been taken us awhile because there’s always the usual issue of everyone wanting more money and to catch up to what they think they lost, and we just don’t have enough money.
So we bargained firmly knowing that we couldn’t address healthcare issues until we see more of what the consequences will be from further implementation of the Affordable Care Act, especially since it can help us reduce costs at the County Hospital System in Martinez.
The only organizations that are out of contracts that we are negotiating with is our Western Engineers, and I understand were getting close to a deal with them, and SEIU 512, which has requested a mediator so we’ve been in mediation with them over some issues.
But basically everybody with the exception of the Sheriffs got pretty much same deal, which was 4% for this year and 3% next year and some cash toward expenses in whatever way they choose.
Going forward, we are beginning negotiations with our Firefighters organization Local 1230, and we will soon begin negotiations with the California Nurses Association for those members represented who work at the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center.
Just as important is what’s coming before CCCERA Wednesday, July 10, where 10 of our labor organizations are still able to spike their final year salary by buying back vacation time twice in a calendar year instead of once. I’m being lobbied very strongly by a lot of the organizations that I should vote to allow this ability to continue.
So with Judge Flynn’s ruling, the Contra Costa County Employee Retirement Association (CCCERA), basically can’t not have a policy, so we have to take this matter up again and decide whether employees can continue to have 80 hours or it will be 40 hours. It’s tough, and there are
a lot ofbad actors who make more in retirement than their last day on the job.
Judge Flynn made the decision and granted a 60 day stay so that employees who have had these abilities to take advantage of them but July 10 this Thursday is you have to be you have to be retired as of Friday the 11th, so we’ve got people walking out the door, longtime employees with a lot of institutional memory. That’s not a fun thing.
Countywide Sales Tax
During the June 24th meeting, the board decided not to pursue the proposed Countywide sales tax measure that would have helped to fund a variety of public safety issues and would’ve provided some additional dollars for Doctor’s Hospital. The numbers (54% and 49%) we just felt were too close.
I know board members criticized spending $45,000 for what they said they already knew. I believe it was good information because it basically came back and said 45% of people in this county thought we are heading in the right direction.
So what happens to Dr.’s Hospital now is an independent group, not affiliated with County, a group of hospital managers Northern California hospital Council are putting money into a pot to look at different models of operation, one of which is a standalone ER that would require legislation. That group is supposed to come back with a report, probably September 15.
The $6M the County approved for Doctor’s Hospital is a stop gap. It helps them get through the end of the year instead of closing the doors by July 25. And the “loan” was based on advancing sales tax they would’ve gotten anyway.