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Gilroy
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February 1, 2023

City Raises and Reserves

Consider the timing. It’s only been days since City
Administrator Jay Baksa presented a controversial and ill-advised
pay increase scheme for top city managers to City Council,
carefully placing it on the consent agenda
– the area of the agenda reserved for items so routine and
unremarkable that they don’t need discussion.
Consider the timing.

It’s only been days since City Administrator Jay Baksa presented a controversial and ill-advised pay increase scheme for top city managers to City Council, carefully placing it on the consent agenda – the area of the agenda reserved for items so routine and unremarkable that they don’t need discussion. Now, the City Council has been advised that times are so tight that the city will be chewing through its reserve funds in the next few years. The city will use nearly $3 million in reserve funds this fiscal year, might take as much as $4.8 million from the rainy-day account next year and over the next five years could entirely deplete the whopping $27 million in reserve funds.

“I think now is the time to make the hard decisions and start cutting things out,” Councilman Dion Bracco said just days after approving Mr. Baksa’s pay schedule for top-tier managers.

Is the City Council being played like the pied piper’s flute?

Clearly, Mr. Bracco and the Council are at least two weeks late on those “hard” decisions. Or perhaps those “hard” decisions are reserved only for upcoming negotiations with employee groups lower on the totem pole than managers.

Only City Councilman Craig Gartman insisted that the top manager pay increase scheme be pulled from the consent calendar, and only Mr. Gartman cared enough to ask the important, difficult questions. Predictably, he alone voted against the plan, choosing to take the heat for raising those questions instead of going along to get along.

In light of the city’s serious dip into the reserve fund, Gartman’s long-term economic concerns are more than justified.

The news that Gilroy is dipping into its reserves raises concerns in two areas.

One is economic. Why is it that a city with more than $11 million in annual sales tax revenue and a rapidly expanding commercial base can’t make ends meet? Why can’t our city – with our enviable and ever-growing retail hub – even fix its crumbling sidewalks?

The second is political. Why was the top manager pay scheme presented to City Council members before the bad news about the reserves was presented to them?

Did Gilroy’s city administrator and top managers not know about the city’s financial condition when the pay schedule went before Council two weeks ago? If the answer is no, then competence is an issue. If it’s yes, then the question becomes to what extent is this City Council being manipulated.

Through it all, we have to wonder why more City Council members aren’t asking these tough questions.

It’s not about trusting staff, and it shouldn’t be a matter of worrying about giving offense. It’s about representing the residents of Gilroy – vigilantly.

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