El Cerrito residents can ask about city’s financial crisis at upcoming town hall

EL CERRITO — Residents who want to learn more about the city’s ongoing financial woes can attend a virtual town hall Saturday to ask the City Council directly about the problems.

The meeting, which will be held over Zoom at 10 a.m. Saturday, will allow people to ask questions and offer thoughts about the city’s budget and finances, weeks after a state audit pilloried the council for years of unwise spending.

“Hear an update on the City’s budget, ask questions of staff, and share your thoughts with the City Council on all financial topics such as budget priorities, the state audit, financial conditions, etc.,” states an agenda item on the city’s website.

El Cerrito ranks sixth on the California State Auditor’s dashboard of struggling cities, and neared bankrupcty last year after the coronavirus pandemic compounded existing financial problems.

The audit, titled “Excessive Spending and Insufficient Efforts to Address Its Perilous Financial Condition Jeopardize the City’s Ongoing Fiscal Viability,” blamed city officials, including the council and previous city manager, for continuing to overspend despite declining revenues.

The audit found that salaries for police and fire personnel comprise about half of El Cerrito’s expenditures, a problem that has been exacerbated by mounting pension obligations. It also determined that the city does not have enough sustainable revenue sources to offset all of its spending.

In response to the audit, City Manager Karen Pinkos issued a statement outlining steps that staff has taken to begin remedying the problems. She also criticized the auditors’ tone, prompting the auditors to release another statement calling Pinkos’ response dismissive.

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Residents can find the city’s special town hall agenda at www.el-cerrito.org/482/Council-Meeting-Videos-Materials.

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Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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