STOCKTON, CA— “We have to change the way we run this city; we need to change the structure of how we do things,” remarked Mayor of Stockton Ann Johnston at the 2012 State of the City. She highlighted, “We know that a band aide approach will not solve this… We have to do radical surgery to this patient —in that general fund.”
The city’s gloomy finances, a budget deficit, and sky rocketing crime shadow the city’s sunny days and in her State of the City Address, Mayor Johnston gave a detail account of the past, present and hopeful future for Stockton.
How did we get here?
Johnson explained the unsustainable retiree benefits costing 417 million dollars, the large bond debt of 319 million for infrastructure projects like local community, fire houses, the ball park and the arena that we are still paying on today. Generous labor contracts and State raids on City finances such as the removal of vehicle license fees and removal of the Redevelopment agency that she says helped to transform Stockton’s waterfront. The Prior council made mistakes and mismanaged funds without any back-up plan for a rainy day. The Valley continued deeper into its own recession beyond that of the country with extreme unemployment, foreclosures and housing market collapse (from 3,000 home built in 2007 to only 150 in 2011) with the next year’s budget looking just as gloomy.
Whats the problem?
The total budget for the city is 520 million, however only 125 million is accessible and in crisis. The 366 million that is left behind is in restricted funds for things like sewage, water, and measure k that cannot be touched. Past city councils tried to move some of the 366 million to the general to cover things like police, community centers and library’s but the city was sued and lost. With a little more than a month left, the council has until July 1st, 2012 to pass a balanced budget.
What is our current situation?
The city must pass a balanced budget; the city cannot print money or borrow. The city is required by the state and city charter to balance. Only three options, to tax, to cut, or to negotiate however, the taxes that the city would have to pay to get out of this debt would be unconscionable, the city has already cut the budget by 90 million and cannot cut any further without jeopardizing the safety of its residence, so Johnson says “We have to change the way we run this city we need to change the structure ,” by negotiating with debtors in a process called AB506, a new law, Stockton is one of two cities in the State (Mammouth Lakes is the other) that will be going through this process.
STOCKTON, CA – “We have an increase in crime. We have had an increase in violent crimes; most of it a result of lifestyle choices like prostitution, gangs and drugs but the city says they remain committed,” said Mayor Ann Johnson at the State of the City address early this month at the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce annual event at the Stockton Port, “We remain committed to cracking down on the criminals that are terrorizing our citizens.”
Johnston explained that the city is presently working on the following:
The Silver Lining
Johnson Said that it was not all bad. The city is overhauling the Community Development Department to make it easier to do business, and that over 100 people are taking out business licenses a month that want to do business here. The city is working with Public Works to create the delta water supply project – a 200 million project which will bring us a reliable water source.
“Many would be envious of the water we have,”added Johnson. The city has also partnered to create a coalition to fight the state to take Delta water, to save the delta adding that it would be an “Economic disastaster should anything take our water around the delta instead of through our delta.”
Johnston continued, “The city will continue with infrustruture for restricted funds, infrastructure like the I-5 interchange project that seeks to connect 99 to bring in more business to the south side of Stockton,”
The State has invested in a prison Hospital in Stockton, with a 50% local hire requirement the state will bring 2400 employees on board in 2013.
The port, as reported by the Port Commissioner, is an international point of commerce, it is the only port on the west coast that is exporting more than importing- a good economic sign.