UPLAND - An auditor hired by the Upland Firefighters Association mixed compliments with criticisms in his review of the city's finances.

Although Upland officials did not keep citizens informed about the city's financial situation, they have been on the mark when it comes to budget projections in recent years, said John Johns, who is based in Davis.

Council members agreed last week to short-term recommendations by City Manager Stephen Dunn to keep the budget from deteriorating further.

A city memo in October said expenses were underprojected and that severe cuts to services and employees were necessary.

"First of all, the city manager is right. The city is having a hard time right now, but they're not in a fiscal emergency. And because it's not in a fiscal emergency, it has time to work these problems out," Johns said.

"Second compliment is that the city manager offers a plan that I believe has realistic objectives and is one that is reasonably balanced."

Johns addressed the City Council and Dunn at a special meeting last week to discuss possible solutions to the city's budget situation. At the meeting, council members asked Dunn to estimate possible savings for long-term budget solutions, such as outsourcing such services as police and fire.

Johns criticized Upland officials for not keeping citizens informed about the city's financial condition because certain documents are not part of council members' regular agenda packets.


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He recommended that the city make financial reports part of the agenda packets for future meetings.

Johns' audit also said:

The Fire Department's operating costs are lower than in comparable jurisdictions. Further reducing costs would compromise public safety.

The city has been reasonably accurate in projecting revenues and expenses in the past three years.

The city has taken measures to reduce its costs, such as reducing staffing levels.

The sources of the city's financial difficulties are cyclical or one-time occurrences rather than a structural imbalance between revenues and expenditures.

"The bottom line is, I agree with Mr. Johns. This is not a structural problem; it is a cyclical problem, meaning that the changes we've made will restore our reserves as long as we are very diligent with our resources going on into the future," Dunn said.

Johns suggested that council members ask voters for a tax increase and include public- safety management in the decisions to go out to bid.

Dunn said residents tell him they do not want to pay more taxes. He was also resistant to include employees in the bid process.

"I will tell you the ideas that I get are: `Don't take it from us. Take it from them,' and that doesn't work and we just go in circles with that," he said.

"We want to evaluate a number of things and want to present the council viable alternatives for service delivery."

Jeff Schneider, the vice president of the Upland Firefighters Association, said the union hired Johns after it heard about the city's financial condition and received what it called inaccurate numbers from City Hall.

The audit aimed to provide an outside perspective and additional ideas for city leaders, Schneider said.

"We want to ensure the council is presented with sound financial information and our city leaders are not led to make permanent decisions to fix a temporary problem," he said.

Johns also accused the city of violating the Brown Act - California's open-meetings law - when the council issued a request for proposal for fire services during closed session. The proposals were submitted to the city by Oct. 18.

Dunn said council members did not vote in closed session to go to bid, but rather gave him direction to explore the option.

"The RFP was issued on my own and outside the City Council meeting," he said.

Dunn will present the proposals for fire services and outside proposals to provide police services at a future council meeting.

sandra.emerson@inlandnewspapers.com

909-483-8555, @UplandNow