Chico City Councilmember explains 'State of City'

Jan 31, 2014 7:40 PM

A Chico city council member is speaking out, after the mayor's bleak picture Thursday of the city's budget. It’s a budget with a $15 million dollar deficit.

‘It’s worse than we thought,’ is a line Sean Morgan has heard at least three times since taking office more than a year ago.

It was said again by Mayor Scott Gruendl at Chico's state of the city on Thursday.

“I’d watched for 12 months of campaigning what staff that is no longer here, wouldn't give council information they asked for, they belittled them,” Chico City Councilmember Sean Morgan said. “It was bad.”

Morgan credited fellow Councilmember Mark Sorensen as being the first to step in during the last regime.

“As a councilmember, Mark Sorensen first started thinking, ‘I’m not sure everything's right with the budget. I don't think the budget is really balanced. He started asking for financial reports that our former finance director would not give him.”

That was just the culture of the city, Morgan said.

“You had a senior staff that believed we can work our way out of this. We can move this, shuffle this, and do these things.”

Morgan said shuffling doesn't fly in the current regime.

But this regime is left to pick up the pieces.

Morgan said Administrative Services Director Chris Constantin came up with a plan to repay $1.5 million dollars a year. But the city’s auditing company said not so fast.

“The auditors have come forward and said you know, your debt repayment plan may not be enough. You might have to dump all the money into the general fund in one year.”

That's the bad news.

Even worse, the audit isn't complete.

“If something catastrophic happens, we don't have any money. And we've lost the ability to manage the city.”

“We start talking about having to let more people go? We've got more people in this city doing more than they ever have.”

But there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

“We’re working closely with the chamber, the DCBA, and a lot of the businesses to ensure we create employment,” City Manager Brian Nakamura said.

“I feel like the businesses are growing and need more services while the city is kind of downsizing,” said Chico Chamber of Commerce Director Katie Simmons said. “So we're in this really interesting time where the private sector, or the non-profit sector, is coming in and saying we can provide those services. The city might not be able to anymore to the extent that they could. We can, and we can do it together.”

Katie Simmons said the Team Chico program has already had a $34 million dollar impact in Chico, and added 1,300 jobs.


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