VALLEJO – The Vallejo City Council approved the city’s 2022-23 fiscal year budget this week but not before some members said they were insulted by the suggestion the council was using $350,000 in discretionary funding as a “slush fund.”
Vice Mayor Rozzana Verder-Aliga, District 1, and Councilmember Mina Loera-Diaz, District 3, were the most vocal in response to comments made by council critic Andrea Sorce, who expressed concern with the council having the ability to distribute funding as they see fit.
“It seems really unethical and although it might technically be legal according to the city attorney, if you think about it for a few minutes, it’s kind of horrifying,” Source told the council. “It feels like staff are bribing city council, using taxpayer dollars, in exchange for their cooperation in approving the budget.”
Each councilmember will receive $50,000 to dole out to local nonprofits. Then-City Manager Greg Nyhoff carved out $400,000 in discretionary funding last May for the current fiscal year as each member was given the chance to hand out $57,000 in funding. That practice continues under new City Manager Mike Malone.
“I’m very offended by the fact that people think that we’re just handing out money left and right to our privileged individuals,” Loera-Diaz said in response to Sorce’s comments. She defended her choice to give $17,000 toward a soccer program hosted by the Greater Vallejo Recreation District with 120 kids enrolled.
“As many times as I get that money, I’m going to put it toward the children because they need something to do,” Loera-Diaz said. “It’s not easy being up here, criticized for everything you do and don’t do.”
Verder-Aliga also defended the discretionary funding, saying she already has a list of 15 nonprofits lined up for the money “because they need it so badly.”
“I always tell them ‘thank the city of Vallejo’ because it’s taxpayer’s money that is being put to good use and it has an immediate impact on individuals, children, the arts community and the homeless community,” Verder-Aliga said.
Verder-Aliga also took a swipe at Councilmember Cristina Arriola who said during the May 24 meeting that she had concerns about the discretionary funding being added to the budget for a second straight fiscal year.
“So again,” Verder-Aliga said Tuesday, “for those that don’t know what to use with their discretionary funds, Councilmember Loera-Diaz and myself would gladly take those monies if you don’t want to use them.”
Arriola was the only member to vote against the $290 million 2022-23 fiscal year budget, which begins on July 1. Councilmember Hakeem Brown, at large, was absent from the meeting.
Malone projected a structurally balanced budget as general fund revenues are expected to be $131 million with expenditures of $130 million. The city anticipates an 8.9% increase in general fund revenue, which includes an increase of nearly $5.5 million in sales tax revenue and a $1.5 million increase in property tax revenue. Sales and property taxes account for a combined 59% of the city’s general fund.
Vallejo police will receive a $4 million increase, giving the department a $57.9 million budget; Vallejo police will continue to account for 45% of the city’s general fund expenditures, despite some calls for the community to redirect funding away from the force. The department had a $45.5 million budget during the city’s 2019-20 fiscal year.
Mayor Robert McConnell said in the future he wants to see the police budget reduced from 45% to 40% of the city’s general fund expenditures. Continuing, McConnell said he’d like to see a similar defunding of Vallejo fire with the department’s budget dropping from 26% to 20%, while public works gets an increase from 8% to 15%.
Instead, he suggested increasing the planning and development services budget from 5% to 8%, and increasing the citywide allocation from 7% to 9%, which funds various arts projects, community programs, as well as being the account the city moves monies from to support other city funds. McConnell also said he’d like to see the allocation toward administrative functions, like supporting the city manager’s office, and city attorney’s office, drop from 9% to 8%.
McConnell said the city needs to develop a tax base if it hopes to bring in more revenue.
“That’s going to require a different value system than we currently have and hopefully more income,” he said. “If we don’t develop income, then we’ll never get out of this hole we’re in.”
Council approves $3.75 million contract for unarmed security services
The council approved a three-year $3.75 million contract with Admiral Security Services for unarmed security services at several city-owned properties.
Admiral will replace Allied Universal Security, which held the contract since 2018 and ends on June 30 of this year. Allied’s coverage areas includes Vallejo City Hall, the John F. Kennedy Public Library exterior campus, Vallejo Municipal Marina/Harbor, the downtown parking garage, along the city’s waterfront and downtown parking lots. The new contract also adds patrol service at the Fleming Hill Water Treatment Plant, 400 Mare Island Way, and the Vallejo Housing Authority building.
Services are also used as needed at community events like events the Mad Hatter Festival, Art Walk and during emergency situations such as public safety power shutoffs, city staff wrote in a report.
“You will not be just another account, you will be a priority,” said Teresa Larkin with Admiral Security Services.
Larkin acknowledged that her guards will interact with unsheltered persons on or near city-owned properties. She said the guards will act humanely and treat people with dignity.
“These are people, we get it,” she told the council.
Larkin also said the business is looking to hire locally.
“It’s not great pay, but it’s not bad pay, but it’s nice and secure pay and it’s a way up,” Larkin said.
Those points excited Loera-Diaz, who said it was important to hire residents to provide security services.
“I would ask that you really try to hire most of your folks locally because the city needs it,” she said. “We have a lot of people here wanting and willing to work.”
The city will see an hourly cost increase of 21% from the current standard hourly rate of $24.62. The new standard rate will be $29.85, while the mobile patrol rate will jump from $30 to $35 per hour.
McConnell said he hoped the security would help to deter certain car-related crimes on city property.
“One of the biggest complaints that my office has received is the lack of protection in the parking lots, with respect to break-ins of cars, both in the garage and in the surface lots, and the theft of catalytic converters,” the mayor said.
Larkin said part of the contract includes the ability for both sides to make changes and incorporate different approaches to crime prevention. Larkin said Admiral security vehicles have cameras mounted on the front and rear to record incidents.
She also noted that Admiral will work with Vallejo police to share crime data.
“Is what we are doing effective? If not, what do we do to make it effective? That’s how we build this security partnership, is to actually look at the data,” Larkin said. “So the plan is to work hand-in-hand with the police, with data sharing, to figure out what we can do to help.”
City agrees to contract extension with HR firm
With no comment, the council also approved a second amendment to an agreement with Beauchaine Consulting to provide assistance with several HR-related issues. The new terms include a $51,000 increase and extension of the contract to Dec. 31, 2022, for a total of $150,000.
The city originally approved a $50,000 contract with Beauchaine Consulting in January and agreed to a $49,000 increase in April. The contract was expected to end on June 30, the end of the fiscal year.
Beauchaine already works on employee and labor relations issues and will expend that to include “bargaining support for negotiations with employee labor groups, which will require more time than previously anticipated,” Assistant City Manager Terrance Davis, who is also serving as interim HR director, wrote in a staff report to the council. Davis was originally hired to serve as the city’s public works director before being tapped to serve as assistant city manager.
The city turned to Beauchaine after HR Director Mark Love left at the beginning of the year. The Vallejo Sun previously reported this week that Assistant Human Resources Director Stephanie Sifuentes is leaving this month, adding more turnover to the beleaguered city department.
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THE VALLEJO SUN NEWSLETTER
Investigative reporting, regular updates, events and more
- Vallejo City Hall
- Vallejo City Council
- Rozzana Verder-Aliga
- Andrea Sorce
- Greg Nyhoff
- Mike Malone
- Cristina Arriola
- Robert McConnell
- Admiral Security Services
- Allied Universal Securities
- Teresa Larkin
- Beauchaine Consulting
- Mina Loera-Diaz
John Glidden worked as a journalist covering the city of Vallejo for more than 10 years. He left journalism in 2023 and currently works in the office of Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown.
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