“Our city budget is much more than an accounting document. It serves as an outline for how the City should best use our limited resources to benefit the community as a whole.”
Rich Lansburgh, Councilman, Woodland City, California
Daily Democrat, April 26, 2020.
Reckless Spending? You Decide
City Council members are elected to represent the public’s interest. The money they spend is ours, not theirs. The city we live in is ours, not theirs. The decisions they make are supposed to be in the best interest of the residents, not for their own self-interest or for their own pet projects.
In the American system of government, elected officials are expected to listen to the people and consider the people’s views when decisions are made. Since 2019 when a council majority slate took over, the people’s views on significant issues have been ignored. Recommendations from California agencies who reviewed city’s finances and business practices have been downplayed.
For example, the State Auditor stated the City should “prepare financial analyses that evaluate both the short-term and long-term financial implications of significant decisions” (December 20, 2020). The City Council routinely makes major financial commitments without a financial analysis as the examples below show. This process is wrong because it is the people’s money. When any city council recklessly spends money without a fiscal analysis they place our financial future at risk.
As of April 2023, the City of West Covina is "flush with money". The City received, for example, almost $18,927,302 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. Property and sales taxes are up. (Proposed Budget Fiscal Year 2022-2023 Slide Presentation. Undated). Not surprisingly, the City is spending the money about as fast as it comes in. It has undertaken long-term commitments often without conducting either a needs assessment or financial analysis.
A “flush with money” situation never lasts. Economies change. Budgets get impacted. Services to residents get reduced. Fees get raised. Increased taxes are explored.
What does last is the need for the City to follow good business practices—and that includes performing preparing financial analyses as was recommended by the State Auditor.