(ACTION) Review and action to approve the Juvenile Probation Department’s FY 2003-04 budget for submission to the Mayor.
Comm. Hale commented that this situation reminded him of a saying: managers have to do things right, leaders have to do the right thing. He said that there will be times when people like the Commission will be at odds with people who have the responsibility of doing things right. He said he was heartened by the level of compassion and understanding expressed for the Chief and staff. He said he understood the message given to the Commission, to find another way. He said he didn’t know where the discussion was going to go. He asked the Chief when was the very last date the Commission could provide a final decision. The Chief said that the Dept had to submit the budget on the 21st, and could not do that without the Commission’s approval tonight. He went further to say that once the budget was submitted, then that started another process whereby the Controller/Mayor’s budget office begins a discussion with departments to finalize budgets for final submission to the Bd of Supervisors by June 1. He said that during that time, if the Dept comes up with another plan which achieves the bottom line, that the Mayor’s office and Controller would be willing to entertain a discussion about it. He wouldn’t guarantee this. He said that their office has the authority to accept or reject any aspect of the submitted budget.
Comm Hale asked what the impact would be of not rendering a decision until Friday. The Chief said that it would entail putting in all the new figures into the system, preparing the new document for submission, and making sure the new plan meet the reduction goals. Could this be done depends on the scope of the changes.
Comm. Hale suggested that in the discussion, when options are presented, eg. Mr. Fithian’s suggestions, that the staff prepare responses to those options.
The Chief stated that this proposed plan was in preparation as early as Oct. of last year. It involved meetings with everyone concerned with the Department’s budget: CBOs to all staff in the Dept. This document is the result of all those meetings, and everyone had ample opportunity to comment on it. The level of diligence was high. The Dept did not construct this lightly. The bottom line is, given the drastic and severe nature of the City’s situation, decisions of this magnitude are the order of the day. He acknowledged that the LCR staff had rose to the challenges put to them by the Chief, to improve, but he absolutely and unequivocally recommend the Commission approve the proposed budget.
He suggested that all the speakers who spoke about the good they were doing there, come up with an alternate plan to run the ranch themselves. To contract for the services that the Dept will give $1 mil to.
He asked, who could make a case for what to do with the young men at LCR, than those already doing it now. He said that while he and the Commission couldn’t give that direction, the people who spoke have the expertise to do it and carry the day.
Comm. Ricci asked the Chief what experience the Dept has had in “renting” bed space at LCR.
The Chief answered that he has a list of other ranches that could take residents from LCR, but he has not entered into dialog with them regarding costs. He said that the cost of contracting out for 20 to 25 beds would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $800K to $1.2mil.
Comm. Bonilla commented that he liked what was happening at LCR, that it was a very positive place. He said he isn’t in support of cutting LCR. He wanted to look at the budget a little deeper. He didn’t believe it was right to contract out something so important.
Comm. Ricci asked the Chief what would happen if we made a case for not cutting the budget 20%, that the City’s priority should be to maintain this Dept’s services? The Chief said he wasn’t sure that was an option available to them.
Comm. Ricci asked what the estimated costs were for just maintaining the security at LCR once it’s closed. The estimate is $80K a year to put up the fences and hire a security outfit.
The Chief said that some of the assumptions that using vacant positions would add up to a savings alternative to closing LCR were not valid. For this first round, everything was looked at, including revenue enhancements, and reduction of workmen’s comp.
Comm. Hale asked about the option of cutting POs. The Chief said that in order to realize any significant savings from cutting POs, it would take 3 positions to save the cost of 1, since 2/3 of a POs salary is reimbursed through the IVe funds. The Dept is banking on a vacancy of 5 to 10 POs in the next year’s budget.
The Dept is also required to have POs perform duties for the courts.
Comm Richard emphatically opposed the proposal to close LCR.
The Chief mentioned that one way of increasing Dept revenues would be to sell off parts of the property there, and they have a reading from the City Attorney that this would be allowed, but they have taken no current actions to do this, and in fact cannot afford the $10K appraisal fee to get the value of the property assessed. Additionally, there’s no guarantee that there would be a buyer.
Comm Richard asked if the Commission would be willing to sit down and come up with another plan.
Comm. Hale said that a decision has to be made tonight. He said that he has always been in support of LCR, but when he came on the Commission, the Dept was implementing the Local Action Plan, which did not include LCR. He spoke highly of the Chief in preparing the budget. He repeated the other options available, from selling the property to getting a collaboration of CBOs to come up with an operational plan.
Comm Chuck said that he liked the idea of CBOs taking over services, but this would need to be carefully crafted. He recounted that the LCR facility has a lot of deferred maintenance needs, but there isn’t enough time to resolve all this, given the need to make a decision tonight and move on.
Comm Richard asked again for clarification. If the Commission approved this budget, then LCR would close on July 1, and the youth there would be shipped off to CYA or brought back to JH?
Comm Hale said it wouldn’t be as easy as that. He stated that the recommendation the Commission makes tonight is just a recommendation. There may be others who disagree and can direct the Dept to come up with another plan. Comm. Richard made a point that if the Commission makes this decision to accept closing LCR, that probably nobody in the Mayor’s office will disagree, since the Commission is charged with directing this Dept. There is nobody in that office more familiar with the Dept’s operations than the Commission and if the Commission said to shut down LCR, the Mayor’s office will simply agree.
Comm. Bonilla asked if there were other options to choose from, why were they not considered in first in this round of cuts, rather than LCR.
The Chief said that the bottom line was that this was the simplest solution since the dollar amount made up approx. that 10% requirement.
Comm. Bonilla asked how long ago had the Dept identified the potential of renting out bedspace at LCR as a means of generating $80-$120K in revenue. The Chief answered referring to the problems of identifying a contractor to take over the services and operation of LCR.
Comm. Bonilla echoed what Comm Richard thought, that if the Commission approves the cut, nobody in the Mayor’s office will dispute that.
Comm. Chuck asked if it was possible to have an audience with the Mayor to make a case against closing LCR.
Comm. Hale said that within the allowances of the Sunshine Act, the Commission could meet with the Mayor. But right now the Commission needs to decide if it will move this process forward tonight. He said that if the Commission doesn’t do it tonight, someone else will make the decisions for them. He said that while he hated making this decision, he was reminded that the Mayor said the Commission needs to be his eyes and ears to making sound decisions regarding the Dept.
Comm Ricci expressed her dismay that as the Chair of the Finance Committee of the Commission, she wasn’t given any information or “early warning” about the possible cut, that no documents were given to her in a timely manner so she could see line by line the Dept’s budget plan, and might have a chance to lobby those needed to support the Dept. She said she agreed we all had to lobby to help the Dept, but how do you lobby without the facts? Without the documents and the time, there is no possible way of evaluating and making adjustments. She acknowledged that the Finance division of the Dept may be under some pressure, but this was not acceptable.
The Chief said he understood the frustration expressed by Comm. Ricci. He said that this document was only the reduction plan being proposed, but that in one form or other through the year, the Dept has presented the Dept’s budget to the Commission for consideration.
Comm. Bonilla asked if there were other plans the Dept had available to offer.
The Chief said no.
Comm. Bonilla commented that he understood that the entire City was under the knife and that Depts were cutting their budgets, but in referring to Comm. Hale’s example of the Health Dept’s cut on services, he said it was just that, cutting services, and not cutting a full division of their operations, such as Laguna Honda hospital. He likened the Probation’s cut of LCR to Public Health shutting down the hospital. He wants to explore other fiscal avenues which may not have been considered. He didn’t want to look toward the short term fiscal benefits over the longterm treatment benefits for the youth.
Comm. Dupre asked if LCR could continue to be operated at a 5% cut, so that it wasn’t “zeroed out” in this first round of cuts.
The Chief said that if the Commission wanted to carry on a discussion about what other possibilities might be available, he would be willing to do that up to the deadline for submission of this budget, but he said he understood that this was not an option that had.
He said that among the restrictions on this process was the question of whether what they came up with in the end met the directives of the Mayor, and if they didn’t, the Dept wouldn’t then have the ability to make the decisions. He said the directions from the Mayor gave exemptions to the submission date, for exceptional cases, but he couldn’t say whether this was an exceptional case.
Comm. Hale said that this was not the end of the process. There are still opportunities to find other ways, after tonight.
Comm. Bonilla asked why LCR was placed in the first round of cuts and not the second. The Chief replied that the plan had to concretely show a 10% reduction in expenses, and the cuts he is considering for the second round are not as firm (softer)…the numbers attached to them are not exact and cannot be guaranteed. LCR was the single most concrete reduction.
Comm. Hale entertained a motion to approve the proposed budget cut.
Comm. Chuck so moved. Comm. Dupre seconded.
Comm. Hale said he fully expected that everyone would meet with the Mayor to express their concern over this plan. He repeated that he would rather have the Commission make this decision rather than have someone else make it for them.
Comm. Ricci asked if there was the chance that in the later rounds, LCR could be put back in.
Comm. Hale said absolutely. This was just a recommendation. The Commission is being asked to make a decision that is inappropriate, in order to meet a deadline. He encouraged the Commissioners to access their allies on the Board of Supervisors, to tap into other pots of money in the City. But he repeated that the Commission had a responsibility to meet the submission deadline.
The question was called. By roll call vote: 3 ayes (Comm. Hale, Dupre, Chuck), 3 nays (Comm. Ricci, Richard, Bonilla) The motion failed.
Comm. Bonilla commented that he was not comfortable with passing this budget on the assumption that they could still come back and make alterations later. He felt that by approving it and passing it on to the Mayor, that the Mayor would accept it at face value, because the Commission is charged with making the best decisions for the Dept. Once the Commission that budget go, they would lose control over it.
Comm Chuck asked then what the consequences are if the deadline is missed. Who makes the decision.
Comm. Hale said he was concerned, because if they don’t want to cut LCR, then where are the other options in the budget for cuts?
Comm. Bonilla repeated his agreement with Comm. Ricci, that there was no opportunity to review the Dept’s budget to find any other options, since the document being discussed at this meeting was only given to the Commission before this meeting. Similarly with the Finance Comm. there was no opportunity to digest the budget, line item by line item, before an action was called for.
This may be above and beyond the call of duty but this is what he would have liked to do.
Comm. Bonilla asked the City Attorney if the meeting could be continued to tomorrow. She spoke off mike but essentially said no.
The Chief said that he could not submit the budget without the Commission’s approval, but if he did not do so by the deadline that the Controller’s and Mayor’s office will make those cuts for the Dept.
Comm. Hale said that any continuance of this meeting would be a violation of the Sunshine Ordinance and that there are no other options but to take action tonight.
This was echoed by Rosa Sanchez, Dep. City Attorney. She recommended that they make the decision tonight. If it is postponed, the Commission runs the risk of being sued.
Comm Ricci requested for the second round cuts, that she be provided with a detailed budget document which shows specific line items, in enough time to really comb through it. This was seconded by Comm. Bonilla.
Comm. Bonilla further said that he appreciated the efforts of the Dept in meeting the deadline, and that he still felt that while he disagreed with the proposal, that upon advice of the City Attorney’s office, the Commission had no choice but to act on the proposal tonight to avoid any further legal or financial ramifications of a missed deadline.
Comm Dupre moved to approve the proposed budget cuts. Comm. Chuck seconded. Comm. Hale stated that he will write a letter to the Mayor to impress him with the strong feelings expressed by the speakers regarding the closing of LCR. He also will ask for a meeting with the Mayor to convey those sentiments. The question was called and upon roll call vote there were 5 ayes (Comm. Hale, Dupre, Chuck, Bonilla, Ricci) and 1 nay (Comm. Richard). Comm. Bonilla stated for the record that due to the legal ramifications referred to before and not because they support the motion, both he and Comm. Ricci decided to change their vote. He will now will attempt to move forward and find the money to keep LCR open.
Comm. Hale thanked everyone for coming and expressing themselves over the issue. He encouraged everyone to continue to pursue ways of lobbying for a different end.
(public comments) There was none.