2014 Budget Priorities

The City of El Cerrito is facing tough fiscal challenges again this year. Unlike many other cities, during the recent economic recession and despite declining revenues and the dissolution of the City’s Redevelopment Agency by the State, the City managed to maintain its high level of service during these tough years. However, preliminary projections suggest it will be difficult for the City to maintain a balanced budget in the coming fiscal year (FY2014-15) without reducing programs and services, and/or developing new revenues.

Despite the financial challenges, the City is still committed to providing exemplary service to the public and to fulfilling the goals identified in the Strategic Plan. Staff is currently looking at how best to bring in additional revenues and reduce expenses, and is developing a plan to return the City’s reserves to at least 10% of budgeted annual expenditures in the near future.

In March 2014, City staff hosted series of community meetings to engage the community regarding priorities for the upcoming FY14-15 budget. Read an overview of the community meetings (PDF).

Scroll down to explore additional resources and to read an overview of the City's financial situation.

Online Community Forum

City officials would like to hear from you! Join the conversation online at the Open El Cerrito page, a new online forum to promote civic engagement.

You are also welcome to attend meetings and give public comments to the City Council and Financial Advisory Board.

If you have questions about the public input process, please contact Suzanne Iarla, Community Outreach
Specialist at siarla@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us or 215-4318 for more details.


City Council
The El Cerrito City Council adopts an annual budget by June 30th of each year and invites the public to participate and give their input.
Read the April 22, 2014 Study Session presentation or view video of the Council meeting via the City's Streaming Media Archives.

Read Information on the FY 2013-14 Operating Budget

Financial Advisory Board
The Financial Advisory Board ("FAB") is a group of residents appointed to review the proposed annual budget and long-term financial plan for the City in order to assist the City Council in making decisions on major expenditures and revenue sources. The FAB meets monthly.

FY 2014-15 Budget Outlook
The overall sluggish economy, while improving for the private sector, is still impacting the City’s finances. The El Cerrito City Council, City staff, and residents have all contributed to the City’s success up to this point in maintaining programs and services and avoiding laying off employees. In recent years, the City has eliminated a number of positions, left a number of other positions unfilled, reorganized departments to achieve better efficiencies, obtained significant outside funding from grants, and implemented other innovative solutions to save money.

People Provide Services

Unlike a business that creates or manufactures items for sale, the City provides services including police, fire, economic development, public works, recreation, building, planning, environmental and administrative services that aren’t provided by the private sector. The City has around 180 permanent positions, plus a number of seasonal, part-time positions

The City continues to struggle to provide its employees with competitive wages in an effort to recruit and retain excellent staff to provide the services that our residents and businesses expect. Of the City’s General Fund, 78% of expenses in FY 2013-14are budgeted to go towards employee compensation. This is primarily due to increasing pension and medical costs. Data from the State Controller’s Office shows that El Cerrito ranks 20th out of the 33 cities in Contra Costa and Alameda Counties for average employee wages. This means that the City risks losing or attracting talented employees, particularly as other cities begin hiring when the economy improves.

Essential Community Support

The 2008 voter-approved Measure A Street Improvement Sales Tax has been very successful, as the City was able to complete a comprehensive street rehabilitation program that saw 70% of local streets repaired or re-sealed. The City’s roadways went from being generally in poor pavement condition to being recognized by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission as having the most improved roads in the Bay Area, with the greatest increase in pavement condition index (PCI) over a three-year period. Measure A funds are a restricted source of revenue that can only be spent on ongoing maintenance and improvement of our local roadways, and cannot be used for other purposes.

The 2010 voter-approved Measure R Sales Tax increase generates an estimated $1.4 million annually. This tax will expire (or “sunset”) in 2018. As revenue to the City’s General Fund, Measure R revenues have been used to maintain police, fire, recreation, parks, facilities and other programs that would have been cut without this support from the community.

Since Measure R was passed, however, the State has taken away over $1 million in annual revenues the City previously received. This means that, despite the community’s support and the City’s prudent levels of spending, the City has not yet been able to bounce back from the recession. The amount of funding currently available to the City may no longer be able to sustain all of the City’s programs, services and facilities at existing levels. During the last two fiscal years, the City had to use reserve funds to balance the budget in an effort to avoid service cuts. However, the City’s reserves cannot continue to fund ongoing services. Further, it is important for the City to have adequate emergency reserves in order to be able to respond to unanticipated events.

These preliminary projections suggest difficulty for the City to be able to maintain a balanced budget in the coming fiscal year without reducing programs and services, and/or developing new revenues. Despite the financial challenges, the City continues to be committed to providing exemplary service to the public and fulfilling the goals identified in the Strategic Plan (adopted in 2013).