One of the seasons Vivaldi did not set to music was the municipal budget season. Perhaps he was concerned about sounding a discordant note, because this is a time when our hopes, dreams and aspirations smack headlong into the reality of our revenue projections.

This reality was revisited when we carried out a review of the City Council's Priority Areas of Focus for the fiscal year and were presented with a series of proposals for the midyear adjustments to our budget by City Manager Valerie Barone and her dedicated staff.

Local government does not have the luxury of printing more money when expenditures exceed our revenue. We need to balance our budget even though -- because of the economy and some post-employment liabilities -- a structural deficit remains which is a source of serious concern to the council.

Karan Reid, the city's director of finance, briefed the matter in detail at the City Council meeting on Jan. 28. Basically, there are three areas of benefit liability:

  • The California Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), is 24 percent unfunded. The total dollar value is $83 million. Actually, this program is considered to be reasonably well funded.

  • The Retiree Medical Benefits program (OPEB) is 69 percent unfunded, which means we have a shortfall of $42 million. Our goal has been to fully fund this program, but we have a current annual shortfall of $1.7 million.

  • Finally, the City of Concord Retirement System (CCRS) is 38 percent unfunded, with $24 million unfunded. To reach our goal of fully funding this program would require an annual budget transfer of $1.2 million.


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    Part of the problem is because years ago the city did not require contributing payments from our employees, as we do now. On the plus side, the City Council, as a matter of policy, has instructed the city manager to apply one-time funds and any surplus funds toward reducing these unfunded liabilities. We feel this is a responsible course of action and consistent with good stewardship.

    In addition, the Measure Q committee reviews the entire city budget, along with Measure Q revenues.

    Annually, our total financial picture is scrutinized by a reputable, experienced outside team of auditors who provide an audit report that is available to the public. This is simply another example of what we believe is the kind of transparency you expect from your City Council and the entire staff of the city.

    Now, letting the other shoe hit the floor, I need to present to you some serious concerns that face us as we anticipate the demise of Measure Q -- which has been a godsend, to say the least.

    There is a significant infrastructure backlog. The cliché about deferred maintenance meaning no maintenance is an apt description of the problem. It would be tempting for a politician to sugarcoat this problem, but as your Mayor I can't.

    We have both short-term and long-term projects that we cannot immediately fund. There are serious sewer problems that will have to be addressed sooner than later. Some of our signage needs updating and repair.

    Our primary focus will be on safety. We are assessing this situation and will give safety matters the highest priority.

    Speaking of safety, as Mayor I want to affirm my commitment to the Council Priority Focus Area of public safety. As stated earlier in a report to the residents of Concord, I am very proud of all our city employees. And, in the field of public safety we have a number of initiatives at work.

    The Concord Community Court Hearing Program was established last June. There have been 228 cases referred to this court, and the participation rate in the first six months of operation was 46 percent. It is important to note that revenue resulting from fines paid due to infractions from juveniles goes right back into initiatives assisting juveniles.

    We have enhanced service for victims of domestic violence and I am truly focused on establishing a Regional Family Justice Center in Concord. Other initiatives are also being pursued.

    We have the same problem as any other governmental agency. Services cost money, your tax dollars are at work and we will continue to spend your money wisely. We solicit your advice and input in areas of operation because we know that the destiny of the city of Concord remains in your hands.

    Tim Grayson is the mayor of Concord. Contact him at citycouncil@ci.concord.ca.us.