The mayor’s thoughts on Arroyo Grande’s budget process

June 21, 2016
Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill

Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill


The end of June is budget preparation time at public agencies, and I found myself having to oppose Arroyo Grande’s mid-cycle budget adjustments.

In order to reduce the overall time spent, Arroyo Grande operates on a two-year budget cycle. Fiscal year July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017 is the second half of a budget cycle planned and approved a year ago. This year’s budget effort is reduced to reviewing the first year of the cycle and making allowances for unexpected items and adjustments to accounts that are trending to exceed or fall short of the predictions made at the outset.

The ultimately approved adjustments included funding a number of new consultant contracts, including various facilitators and an incomprehensibly purposed grant writer.  I did not support the proposal.

The budget for the Five Cities Fire Authority (FCFA) is prepared and approved annually by the FCFA Board. Each member agency provides budget guidance to its FCFA Board representative.

I believe the proposed 7 percent increase in FCFA’s budget is not sustainable. Added difficulty arises when major costs for FCFA come in the second year of the city cycle and must be accommodated by reducing other parts of the city’s previously-approved budget. I support providing needed FCFA equipment, but do not agree with the disjointed process that segregates the FCFA component for consideration before the remainder of the city budget.

I believe all foreseeable needs of the city should be presented to the council at once, so that priorities can be ranked and funding allocated accordingly. An improvement would be to have both organizations on the same budget cycle. The promised organizational review of FCFA should consider these budgeting problems up to and including whether FCFA should be reorganized as an independent agency.

Goal setting is usually timed before other budget discussions, but this time we were asked to indicate our goals after approval of the budget. Here are the goals I have submitted:

1.  Simplify and streamline the permitting process and provide predictable, fair, impartial and consistent treatment for development applicants.


– Provide single point of contact with city
– Establish comprehensive requirements checklist
– Plan adequate parking to minimize internal and external impacts
– Eliminate arbitrary and subjective requirements and enforcement

2.  Significant business attraction, recruitment and retention efforts


– Focus areas, e.g., Grand Ave, Halcyon, West Branch
– Hotel developments
– Grocery stores
– Major retail

3.  Develop sustainable success path for Five Cities Fire Authority including full cost accounting of all aspects


– Direct inclusion in city budget process on city budget schedule (2 year)   -OR-
– Separate independent agency

4.  Fully staff Police Department


– Continue to attract highest qualified candidates in market
– Expand promotional opportunities (administrative sergeant)

5.  Maintain high quality, cost effective services PW/Rec/Admin


– Set asides for maintenance of public facilities and infrastructure
– Payment plan for PERS, OPEB
– Minimize consultant contracts

6.  Provide reliable, economical, long term water supply


– Work with Northern Cities Management Area partners and South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District to initiate full advanced treatment recycling
– Define costs and prerequisites for potential backup sources

7.  Maintain Brisco ramp temporary closure and construction funding allocation, consider alternatives


– Extend temporary closure in parallel with extended delays in project funding
– Use funding delay period to consider additional options, e.g., off ramp only; widening underpass


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This is the usual way that local government staffs support their councils. Treat them like mushrooms and feed them full of you know what. Very few local council people actually have any idea of what their budget is or how it is manipulated to support the needs of the public sector.

2 years ago the Mayor of Atascadero was asked on a radio interview what was the city budget, his answer “I don’t know”. At least he told the truth.

All of these cities should be required to have an independent audit of their books periodically and that would not be the auditors who have been doing it for years. Some cities receive recognition for having a nice budget book which has nothing to do with the financial operation and manipulation of the funds. It’s just a real nice book that hardly anyone looks at but costs thousands of dollars to produce.

One example would be the unfunded vacation and sick leave that some cities have accumulated along with the millions of dollars of unfunded PERS retirement accounts. Very similar to an over drawn credit card that at some point will have to be paid for or bankruptcy declared.

Best mayor in a long time! Jim Hill bringing his professional assessment, executive, and long-term planning skills to our complex, overly burdened city management.

He handles the problems before the city in a cool, deliberative manner. He follows the best logical and fiscal path of good engineering / business practices to cut through the tape of obfuscation, obliteration, and avoidance of what’s best for the city.

Jim Hill is a solid performer, quiet in demeanor, strong on principles regardless of political conveniences or rewards.

He is my choice for Mayor when election times comes around! I vote for him for all the qualities in performance, and character, he brought to this city when times were chaotic, the future uncertain for A.G. at best.

He stepped in where others left a mess to clean up, did so quietly and with dignity. I am proud of our mayor, he deserves our votes come election time!

Grant writing, that is what Steve Adams used to do, why is the current city manager not doing that.

The budget was not well thought out the first time, so instead of moving forward we are still looking backwards and trying to adjust. This is not the way to run a city unless you are trying to run it into the ground.

This new city manager does not seem like she is doing her job, or maybe she is not qualified. In Cotati population 6,700 she had an assistant, I think maybe she bit off more than she can chew when she came here.

Now with Diablo closing in 2024 this area is really going to feel the pinch. We need a forward thinking city manager who can work well with others. This council needs to stand up and put their big person panties on and start making the hard decision for the sake of our town.

This budget is a joke.

Look at the Arroyo Grande special council meeting was about today…might explain some of this…

just raise taxes!

I’m impressed how Mayor Hill is willing to question and not just rubber stamp things through. He obviously listens to the voters, and is not swayed by the city management.

I only hope that the other 4 council members give the same in-depth consideration to the all important budget. This is not a cub scout meeting, this is our city that they are responsible for!

the other 4 think money grows on the trees….public welfare recipients all their lives

I think you’re giving the other 4 too much credit.

This Mayor not only can cut ribbons, looks like he wants to cut Red Tape!

Excellent articulation of the issues.

Good God … Jim Hill is a man of solid reasoning. BRAVO to you Mr. Mayor !!!

A politician doing what’s best for the people? This is unheard of. Power to you, Hill.