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Hercules Council Declares State of Fiscal Emergency for Second Time

The declaration will allow a tax increase ballot measure to pass with fewer votes.

In an effort to ease a path to increasing taxes this summer, the Hercules City Council unanimously declared a state of fiscal emergency in the city Tuesday night.

"We're either going to increase our income by imposing a new tax that no one's going to be happy with, I'm sure, or we're going to take some very drastic steps like [dissolving the Hercules Police Department]," Council Member Bill Kelly said. "My wife's not happy with me for supporting this, but I don't know that I have any choice."

This is the second consecutive year the council has declared a state of fiscal emergency, and the declaration will allow a tax increase measure on the ballot to pass with a vote of 50-percent-plus-one-vote instead of the usual two-thirds margin. The council is considering asking voters in a June election to increase the city's utility users tax by 2 percent and include cable in the utilities that are taxed, but has not formally placed that measure on a ballot.

The city faces a $1.2 million deficit for the next fiscal year, about the same amount plugged by a one-time fund transfer this year.

Dale Robbins, Secretary-Treasure and Principal Officer of the Teamsters 315 union that represents many city employees, outlined some of the concessions they have already given to help the city's finances.

"There's really nothing else the employees would be willing to give back to help you balance the budget," Robbins told the council. "They've done their share and remember, they've had the hopes that you would find the money to solve some of these financial problems, and are sorry to see you're in the same position with this deficit."

The city has already laid off a third of its police force and numerous other city employees, and imposes furloughs and requires employees to pay more toward their benefits.

Vice Mayor Myrna de Vera said she was hesitant to vote in favor of the declaration, saying she wanted to hear more about the city's options if a tax measure fails.

"I'm not sure we can be declaring fiscal emergencies every year," de Vera said.

After the declaration was passed, the council voted to hire the Lew Edwards Group to provide polling and communication services for the possible tax measure; that firm's services to the city could cost up to $65,000.

The council also voted 4-1, with Kelly opposed, to raise solid waste rates in the city. The move will also increase the "franchise fee" paid to the city, resulting in an increase in revenue. Click here for more on that topic.

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Sarah Creeley February 17, 2013 at 04:08 PM
I just followed my own advice, and did my homework, getting surprised in the process. YMCA pays less! Their Daycare Teachers get $7.67 - $13.19 and Child Care Day Care Workers make $7.49 - $12.24. Hercules Daycare pays a little more, Recreation Leaders make $9.49 - $12.12 hour and Children's Program Leader make $11.96 - $15.27/hour. I think it's sad that the people who are caring for our kids are paid so low, and that the YMCA is paying its workers less than they did 10 years ago. As far as pensions go, I don't know if $ is used for that, but it would be easy to find out. My understanding is that daycare workers are part time employees which means they may not be eligible for benefits. Sorry about MY mistaken presumptions above.
Dwayne Hoover February 17, 2013 at 05:30 PM
First Hercules had cash cows. Now Hercules has sacred cows. Hopefully some day we may have Happy Cows. http://youtu.be/DZEyGf812_A http://youtu.be/RcGD29NwENI
Giorgio C. February 17, 2013 at 07:03 PM
Sarah, The daycare decision should be data driven. You get what you pay for, yes? It causes me concern that the California licensing board cut back the frequency of childcare facility inspections from biennially to every 5 years. This was a cost-driven decision, not one based on data. Add to the fact that I cannot find a yearly summary report of citations-violations, but instead have to look up the record for each individual center. We can do this for the YMCA and even our current city program, but I also want to see the big picture. Are those centers that are staffed with less trained-qualified employees less safe? If so, this is not a bargain. The bottom line is that the state of California cannot be trusted with the safety of our children, that it is up to us to exercise our due diligence.
Giorgio C. February 18, 2013 at 01:33 AM
Did the Piranhas swim team completely separate from the City? I thought they were going private. Perhaps someone can share how that is working out. I value this program, with the hopes that my daughter will be a Piranha soon.
Giorgio C. February 18, 2013 at 04:08 PM
Piranhas swim team link http://www.ci.hercules.ca.us/index.aspx?page=527

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