By Russ Branson

Network Presents Multi-Year Financial Plan to Salinas, CA

On December 4, 2018, the National Resource Network presented a report to the City of Salinas (CA) City Council highlight its recommendations for the city to address a looming $60 million deficit.

With a growing population, increasing home values, and a strong and growing agricultural/AgTech economy, Salinas is poised for opportunity. Salinas also faces significant challenges related to a growing structural budget gap, high poverty rates and occurrences of violent crimes, and over 1,000 residents who go to sleep every night without a roof over their head.

If the City does nothing, it will run out of reserves by FY23 and will face a cumulative deficit of $63.1 million over the next ten years. Overcrowded housing and homelessness will continue to worsen, and Salinas will become even more unaffordable for its current residents.

Salinas, CA, downtown buildingsTo tackle these challenges, the City needs a plan for fiscal stability to ensure it has the resources needed to provide opportunities for prosperity, safety and quality of life for all residents, and to meet the glaring challenges of unsafe housing conditions while also creating more than 4,000 new units of affordable housing over the next decade, if possible.

As The Californian reports, the plan suggests Salinas “pick a cheaper basic health plan, have its employees contribute more to their retirement and health benefits, explore a storm sewer fee as well as possible ballot tax measures, consolidate special pays and paid time off, change some policies and explore leasing or selling some city property.”

Out of 32 proposals, the most important are addressing employee health care costs, consolidating or eliminating certain paid leave policies and implementing a storm sewer fee to end $1.8 million in costs to the general fund per year. Russ Branson, the lead Network staff on the project said, “If you don’t do those major ones, it’s going to be tough to bridge that gap.”

Like so many local governments, Salinas has difficult decisions to make in order to balance the General Fund budget; free up the resources needed to invest in infrastructure; provide a stronger fiscal foundation for the future service of municipal employees; and position Salinas to boldly take advantage of new Federal and State initiatives designed to create thousands of units of new affordable housing.

This Plan will require the City to identify its key priorities and adopt a new approach to service delivery. It will also require sacrifices from both City workers and taxpayers, and the City must work to establish and strengthen its partnerships within the community. As a result of these efforts, this Plan strives to provide a path for a safer, more prosperous Salinas that is able to efficiently deliver basic services, maintain an effective and stable government, and truly provides opportunities to all residents.

This partnership was funded in part through a grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and was a return to Salinas for the Network team. (Information on the Network’s original engagement can be found here.)