Interim City Manager Tom Haglund addressed council for the fifth time to discuss resolutions to the city finance crisis at the special meeting on Aug. 27 at City Hall. A large crowd was in attendance.
“The city is spending beyond its means,” Haglund said.
Haglund continued to review his presentation given at previous meetings, including his reference to a deficit of $4.1 million expected to hit the city next year.
He reviewed long-term, mid-term and short-term solutions.
“None of these cuts come easy,” Haglund said. “I accepted this job on the condition I could give my unvarnished view of what needs to be done.”
His presentation can be viewed on the city’s website.
Council was expected to finalize decisions on staff-recommended cuts at last night’s City Council meeting. Results of that meeting were not available as of press time.
Galt District Chamber of Commerce President Bonnie Rodriguez addressed council during the public comment portion of the meeting. Again her focus was on the trash rate hikes. She presented a map sent to her by city consultants comparing trash rates with other cities.
“I can’t believe this was sent out by the city to defend these rate hikes,” Rodriguez said. “We are not the Bay Area.”
Rodriguez said the map compared Galt’s trash rates to cities where the median home price was over $1 million. In the case of the city of Belvedere, the median home price was over $3.4 million while Galt’s median home price is around $360,000.
Rodriguez went on to compare the median household income. Galt’s median household income is $54,000, which was compared to Bay Area incomes that topped out at $215,000 per year.
“These are the people we’re supposed to compete with price-wise?” asked Rodriguez of council. “The business economy in Oakland brings in sales tax revenues of $54 million while Galt brings in $2 million, not including the Galt Market.”
To make matters worse, according to Rodriguez, the city of Belvedere, and others, do not have businesses within their city.
“Belvedere is, for the most part, a gated community; there are no businesses there. How can we believe anything on this report?” Rodriguez asked.
After Ralph Cortez yielded his time to Rodriguez, she went on to say that the map showed Galt in the top 19 in trash rates compared to the Bay Area cities, but after adding the expense of organics, Galt jumped to the top 10.
Rodriguez indicated that the chamber had already asked to change commercial rates in the city to what Cal-Waste’s commercial customers are paying in Elk Grove until the rates have been re-negotiated; however, that did not happen. According to Rodriguez, Galt businesses have been suffering with the rate hike for four months.
“We’re destroying Galt,” Rodriguez said. “You’re letting Galt be held hostage to one business. You need to take this city back from Cal-Waste.”
Rodriguez said the chamber is asking the city to allow at least two additional companies in to haul commercial trash and recycling.
“Let these companies compete for the business, let an open market decide the price,” Rodriguez said.
Cara Morris from the chamber also spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. She said the chamber had met with city staff, including the city attorney, and asked for a report but was surprised by the report sent back to them.
“What were you thinking?” asked Morris. “I’m sorry to attack you, Ms. Hood (Galt’s interim city attorney), but you should be ashamed and embarrassed. I’m embarrassed for you because of this report. This should have been given right back to R3 (the consultants) saying, ‘I’m sorry. This is comparing apples to oranges.’ Do you think that we’re that dumb to just accept that data?”
Morris went on to say that Galt residents’ tax dollars paid for the report and during a financial crisis.
“So, council, if you are in acceptance of this comparable report and you don’t act on it, then you are going to lose credibility, trust and respect.”