Benicia’s City Council Meeting Exposes Financial Troubles

By Staff

In a recent Benicia City Council meeting, the members revealed some concerning information facing the small city of Benicia. For over a decade the city’s budget has been dwindling, due to the fact that there are more expenses than revenue giving the city a negative budget deficit. This council meeting aimed to share plans on how to get Benicia out of its financial troubles. 

Assistant Finance Director, Jeff Tschudi, presented a slideshow covering how this financial crisis came about. Tschudi services expense increases Marina operating expenses and litigation, and capital projects as a couple main sources of the budget deficit. The capital projects that the city has approved projects such as the Fitzgerald field renovation, general contribution to road projects, and goals to refurbish city hall. Tschudi claims the city’s structural deficit and use of one-time money has left Benicia to scrape together what money it has left. One concerning fact that was stated during the presentation was that between 2022-2023 the city had a 1.9 million dollar deficit. This came as a shock since the city fore-casted “an acceptable deficit of two hundred thousand dollars” on April 19, 2022 (Lionel Largaespada: former councilman)

The city council has known that the city has been facing fiscal challenges and they are now attempting to enter a sustainable and fiscal approach to budgeting. Interim City Manager, Mario Giuliani, claims the city’s current fiscal spending practices “need to end.” The plan proposed will allow the city to “tread water for the next two years” Tschudi said. The city council meetings leading up to the end of June will all focus on creating a balanced budget for the city. On June 6th they will have a hearing to officially approve the budget design.

However, the town struggles to figure out how to rake in more money. This is partly due to the fact that the main revenue of the city of Benicia comes from property tax. Though, members of the city council and citizens of Benicia feel that the town should not grow. The city’s population sits around 27,000 residents and has been stagnant for the past decade. Mayor, Steve Young, said “when we don’t grow, revenue doesn’t grow.” The idea of keeping the town small means to not bring in any large corporations like Target, Trader Joes, etc. The city instead wants to focus its attention on the small businesses in town. However, it is debatable how well they are doing that. Along with keeping the city at its current size, there are not as many housing developments going on around town. The last major development that occurred was the Waters End housing development around 20 years ago. California did recently pass a law; AB 2011 – Housing Development on Commercially Zoned Sites, but Bencia’s plan of action for this was not discussed

Another topic that was brought up by Steve Young was the employment drop that Benicia is experiencing. Specifically, government positions like police officers and positions. During the meeting it was claimed that the Benicia Police Department is down 4 police officers, but there have been applicants. The reason for no hires yet was claimed to be that there have been no qualified applicants within the past 50 days. Steve Young claims Benicia government employees are underpaid and are leaving to go to other cities that pay more. The city is not in the position to offer pay raises though, due to the budget deficit. This has had implications on the productivity of the city. 

Many residents are angered by the situation of debt that the city is experiencing, especially since there have been frequent tax increases over the past years. Residents are confused as to where their money is going if the budget deficit in the town is only increasing. Eric Sargaeson left a comment on The Benician Facebook page stating that “The city needs to sell useless assets: the train station, the Commandant’s House, the city graveyard, the marina, and other city properties…” Resident Steve Jewell replied back saying “your proposals are far too logical and realistic to be applied.” Residents are showing impatience with Benicias financial crisis. The city council claims the miscommunication about the unexpected budget deficit is due to an auditing firm that papered over the city’s financial process and made it look better than it was. This apparently tanked the cities spending money. 
The city council meetings are held every 1st, 3rd, and 4th Tuesday of each week at 6:00 pm. It can be watched on Zoom via this link

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s