Calexico Town Hall Gives Support To Fire Dept.
By Mario Conde
A Town Hall meeting was held this past Tuesday in support of the Calexico Fire Fighters and Paramedics and against the closure of Fire Station #2 at the west side of Calexico.
The public heard a presentation by consultant Peter Donohue who made an audit of the city and spoke about financial situations of the Fire Department and the city as a whole. The meeting took place at Willie Moreno Jr. High where approximately 160 residents attended the meeting.
This consultant was hired by the Calexico Firefighter’s Association as part of their negotiations to do a forensic audit. The roadblock on the negotiations is that the consultant has not been able to get the sworn documents from last year in order to complete the audit.
The City of Calexico and the Calexico Fire Fighters Association have yet to reach an agreement in their labor negotiations. This past Friday, February 17, six Fire Fighters received a thirty day layoff notice from City Manager Armando Villa stating that as a result of the City of Calexico’s shortage of funds and significant crisis for the City, a number of positions have been designated for layoff in order to close the budget deficit.
Donohue said he was working with other cities where the fire department has been targeted for cuts. He mentioned that Calexico has not declared a state of fiscal emergency and have only said that they cannot afford to pay them.
“The last time the city had sworn numbers on was the 2014-15 fiscal year; tomorrow those numbers will be 21 months old,” Donohue said. “Part of our issue is that that if the city is claiming that it’s in financial distress and need to justify layoffs, they should provide the sworn numbers and prove undisputedly the city is in that much trouble.”
Donohue pointed out that in the last fiscal year that Administration, Police, Community Development, Public Works went over budget but the Fire Department came in under budget by $400,000 or 8% under budget. He also mentioned that $1.1 million was transfer from General Fund and placed in other funds. “The deficit was created by transferring out over a million dollars.
Facts like these makes hard to endorse the idea that the city is in financial distress since it was a deficit by design.” he said.
Donohue added that unrestricted net assets are available to be used for any legal purpose. With $46.2 million in annual City operating expenses, he said, $24.2 million in are enough to operate for 191 days or 6 months with no revenue.
“That is two to three times the 2-3 month ‘reserve’ that is recommended by the Government Finance Officers Association.” he said. “Folks, as much the city is frustrated with me, I can’t buy the idea that the city cannot afford the fire station and keep your firefighters working.”
After the presentation there was an opportunity for Q&A and people were asked to contact the city council and let them know they were against the closure of the station and the layoffs. The only two members of the City Council present where Mayor Pro Tem Maritza Hurtado and Councilman Lewis Pacheco.