Oxnard– The 2022-2023 budget preview story continues with the Department of Information Technology preview. Chief Financial Officer Betsy George says it doesn’t come from the general fund, but a large portion is allocated to the general fund because the technology division serves the city as a whole.
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The committee received the update on May 10, which focused on preparing for the end of Measure O funding in 2029.
“Last year we were raised by about $3 million as we continued to migrate to more current platforms,” said George. “This year we are proposing a $3.5 million increase to improve our staffing and service delivery, upgrade aging equipment and software, and improve cybersecurity.”
Proposed totals for each department are $71.8 million for police, $30.4 million for fire departments, $20.2 million for public works, $14.2 million for community development , $14.1 million for cultural and community services, $11.2 million for IT, $7 million for finance and $3.6 million for human resources, $3 million for housing, $2.7 million for the City Administrator’s Office, $2.6 million for the District Attorney’s Office, $1.5 million for Billing and Licensing, and $700,000 for the City Clerk’s Office.
George said the large percentage of out-of-department spending, 17 percent, includes the $10 million IUF reimbursement that the city must make to provident funds.
“We continue to pay off this $36.5 million reimbursement,” she said. “Also included are some bond payments. Our annual debt service is included in non-departmental and then our capital improvement projects. We have close to $12 million in capital improvement projects, mostly roads and lanes.”
George discussed the Action O weaning plan and they planned to bring the matter to the Action O Committee for recommendation.
“We have some ongoing Fire Station 8 operations that are currently being paid for from Measure O funds, $4.7 million, and our proposal for this year is to move those to the general fund,” she said. “Instead, we are paying from Measure O for some one-off projects, lane renewals, some IT upgrades, WiFi in libraries and the repayment of some bonds that we have that are currently being serviced by Measure O.
City Manager Alex Nguyen said the city needs to be thriving with what it has and be mindful and realistic about what is happening in the world today.
“What we invest in people and resources determines the amounts, the speed and the quality of the various results,” he said. “This is a balancing act that the city council has to walk through to come out the other end to approve and enact a budget.”
Nguyen said he is trying to improve organizational effectiveness and an important consideration is how much the city can invest.
“It also has to do with the long-term organizational culture that has been established here,” he said. “Even though we have routine turnover every year, turnover in the form of employees retiring and seeking better opportunities elsewhere, there is always a usual turnover. We still have a core cadre of employees who are here year after year. Now that new resources are available, the culture of the company now has the opportunity to continue to improve, to be more efficient and productive, and hopefully soon, when we have enough people here, enough to get more qualified talent, we can also be more innovative .”
The committee’s chairman, Mayor John Zaragoza, called it an excellent budget that was well put together.
“I think the staff did an amazing job and I know some of the requests were x million dollars and we could only afford a third of those dollars,” he said. “I want to commend the staff because this is a three-year budget and we may be considering a fourth year.”
Councilor Gabe Teran said he appreciates looking ahead to 2029 and trying to see the city operate within its means.
“If you look at what was proposed in the culture and community services budget, they got $2.9 million as a baseline in 2021-2022,” he said. “Now, in the new fiscal year, it’s $170,000. I hope we can clarify that we’re not reducing the amount we’re getting, right? We’re actually adding to what their base was last year and it’s based on their current programming; that’s what they need at this point in time to move forward. Is that correct?”
He was right.
“I wanted to make that clear to people,” Teran said.
Councilwoman Gabby Basua said she has started planning the 2029 budget in anticipation of the end of Measure O and she thanked staff for all their work.
“The city manager had comments on McDonald’s about the competitive wages that McDonald’s offers, a 30 percent employee discount, flexible working hours and tuition support,” she said. “My first job was at McDonald’s, and we used to get a 50 percent discount. They diminished their benefits.”
She also commented on the level of staffing and organization and said she sees an improvement in service delivery for the 911 system and EMS training.
“I think that really needs to be emphasized because it’s potentially not just jobs, it’s also training that we offer to our employees,” she said. “I want to make sure we highlight things that we do for the community.”
The council is scheduled to adopt the budget on June 21.