Opinion: City of Oakley’s Reserve is Not Responsible to the Taxpayers

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Oakley

Last week the City of Oakley mentioned in their weekly outreach email that they had an excess of 30% reserve but they failed to state exactly what that numbers are or what it meant to City residents. It turns out the reserve is actually at 35% which is nearly $2 million higher than required per city policy.

This reserve is unhealthy because its too high and the council should begin at looking how to reinvest the peoples money back into the community which benefits everyone in the community.

Here is what last weeks email said:

While Oakley has experienced the effects of the recession like other cities, its conservative financial management approach has allowed it to navigate the difficult times making the necessary short ‐ term adjustments without having to ask its residents for new taxes and still maintaining a strong fund balance (savings account) that represents a reserve of over 30%.

This is all only accomplished with strong and prudent leadership from the current and previous City Councils, a lean and dedicated staff, and a community that works well together and doesn’t demand a level of service that can’t be afforded. Home values are up, crime is down, the Downtown and other neighborhoods are revitalizing ‐ we are embarking on a growth phase and Oakley’s best years are certainly ahead of us.

I asked the City Manager Bryan Montgomery to clarify what “more than 30%” means, he sent me a 178-page document and said the best place to look was within their financial documents. Mayor Kevin Romick was a bit more kind in sending the same document but stating the answer was on page 5.

According to the document provided by both Oakley City Manager Bryan Montgomery and Mayor Kevin Romick , the city has a General Fund Budget that is $13,237,311 in estimated revenue and $13,200,058 in proposed expenditures—so at least we are not losing money.

As for the available fund balance (reserve), it’s expected to be just over $4.6 million—or 35%. By June 2014, it’s expected to exceed $4.8 million. The problem with this is the City has a goal of just 20% which means there is nearly $2 million  more in the reserve fund than needs to be.

Mayor Romick explained this was higher than required just in case they had to pay back any redevelopment agency money used on the Downtown from the state should they request it back. Councilwoman Diane Burgis gave a similar explanation.

Sounds valid, but the truth is the State may not even sue Oakley for the money and if they did, the City of Oakley could also workout a low interest payment plan.

While I am certainly not going to advocate for reckless spending or “just because” spending, there certainly needs to be discussion by the Oakley City Council of how the City can begin spending down some of the reserve to help improve Oakley in a variety of ways–starting with our local businesses and bringing more folks to Oakley.

By investing in our local business community such as increased signage, tenant improvements, marketing/outreach to the community, an increase of traffic would also help bring in new businesses and  equate to an increase in sales tax which only benefits the City of Oakley and refills the general fund and reserve.

It would be prudent to also look at new ways to expand youth programs, revamp our city recreation department, improve senior offerings, further invest in our  police department, horticulture programs,  and further improve city beautification on “problem areas” around town.

By holding onto the “peoples money”, the council is not being responsible to the folks who elected them to office as the reserve is too high when an economy is already improving.

The council should considering getting to work on behalf of the people instead of the protecting Oakleys’  bank account. By investing back into the community, everyone wins at every level.

Burk Byline

By Michael Burkholder


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18 COMMENTS

  1. While I really do appreciate this news source for all-things Far East Bay (much better coverage on local issues than the CoCoTimes, for instance), overtly-political editorials such as this one cause me to cringe. It is one thing to be critical of what the Oakley City Council chooses to do – I can appreciate that. However, from this and other politically-motivated editorials it is clearly evident that Mr. Burkholder despises the City Manager, Mr. Montgomery, and is setting himself up for another run at the Oakley City Council. Unfortunately, his personal propaganda masked as citizen concern encourages me to consider everything Mr. Burkholder writes as both biased and suspect. And that’s really too bad.

  2. Another city council run? News of a first run is news to me as I have never run for Oakley City Council nor do I have any interest in a City Council seat as that would conflict with the purpose of this website.

    This issue is not a Bryan Montgomery issue, its a City Council issue as they control the amount of money being spent.

    Also for the record, this piece was labled as “OPINION” which of course it will be biased.

    • Mike, I apologize for not accurately remembering that you had run for Ironhouse Sanitation District, not the Oakley City Council. But let’s be transparent: Are you considering a run for a seat on the Oakley City Council in the future? You claim no interest, and I agree that a run would conflict with the purpose of this site. Yet the way you frame your editorials seems to indicate otherwise.

      Let me give you an example: The words you use to describe both the City Manager and some members of the City Council, as well as your interactions with them, makes it seem like you have a personal axe to grind. Take the phrase “a bit more kind” within the context of the first paragraph. Don’t you think it sounds unprofessional? Or is it possible I only am misinterpreting your statements? There have been other comments made in other opinion pieces in the past, but as I wrote in my earlier comment: When I read statements like these, I cringe, and I wonder what you really are trying to convey to us as readers.

      I have no issue with you bringing up valid points. I think the subject you brought up here is important and should be critically examined. But if you want people to take you seriously, I encourage you to be as professional in your opinion pieces as you are when reporting on fires or car accidents.

  3. Well said Burkholder! Having a reserve is very important, but when it gets to high, residents need to begin asking why is the City not spending the money

  4. Oakley City Council has done very little to improve its community outreach. They need to do more for residents.

  5. This City Council is the worst Council in Oakley’s short history. I get in arguments all the time of people who claim it’s so great and that they listen to people. I disagree as they are not doing much to help the City except going with the flow with business as usual. They have done little to improve this community and are not working very hard. New blood is needed during the next election and replaced with candidates who will help business and focus on getting things done. They cannot even complete a simple downtown project on time and they messed up the side walk on O’Hara.

  6. @Geoff
    There is nothing to consider because I already made up my mind that I am 100% NOT going to throw my name in the hat for Oakley City Council or any other office in the next election.

    My goal is to put the information and opinion pieces out… let the people decide.

  7. Not sure what Geoffs problem is, I see nothing wrong with what was written as its raising awareness that our council is not working for us, but building up a bank account at our expense. Sounds like Geoff he may be a bitter city or government employee under an alias. Given Mr. Burkholders past article, he could have been a lot more unprofessional.
    I appreciate the toned down articles and information provided daily. I do thank Geoff for asking the question about a future office run, that brings more credibility to the site now that we know he is not going to run.

    • Thank you for your concern, FrankS; but to be transparent, I am not employed by any government entity (including the City of Oakley). I just decided to speak out on a pattern I had observed in Mike’s opinion pieces, and hoped to clarify some (mis)conceptions I had about his intentions. I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment though – this article was much more tame than past opinion pieces have been.

  8. Mike’s articles on Oakley, all aspects, have been great. We know far more about what is going on because of this blog. Oakley still needs to clean house at city hall.

    Thanks Mike!

  9. Spend some of the money on road repair .Many are unsafe!!!. Just to name a few roads – Cypress Road to Bethel Island Road was poorly patched to start with, there are bumps ,uneven paving all up and down the road, and how about the road to Bethel Island called Bethel Island Road. Very dangerous !!!There again uneven paving, bumps. The last road is on Main Street from Break Break to Neroly Road. There are dividing lines or no lines in general on the road and it is very bumpy .. I bet you don’t drive these road like I do at 4 AM in the dark and fog.. Try it sometime!!!!

    • Its nice to finally have someone else point out that East Cypress Rd and Bethel Island Rd need attention. Seemed like I was the only one speaking out. Some traffic enforcement would also be nice.

  10. I keep hearing about Oakley’s best days are ahead of us and Oakley has so much potential, but city staff and the council do nothing to make it happen. They are right, the best days are ahead of us when we get a new city manager, new city council and new employees. Your site should change to FIXOAKLEYNOW.com . If people in Oakley were paying attention like they should, staff and the council would be forced itno action much faster.

  11. Watch out they will probably buy the city manager a vacation home and forget to tell the voters.

  12. Well in my opinion, the City better hold on to that money as long as they can. I forsee lawsuits coming when the people start getting hit by Highway traffic in front of the City Hall/Police Department. “Itsa comin!!””

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