It is hard to believe that Labor Day has come and gone. While August has typically been a month to get away and Labor Day is one last time to celebrate before the start of school, this year was different. The school year is well underway and August was a busy month.
August began with what is typically one of the largest community celebrations of the year - National Night Out. Instead of having City Council meet on the first Tuesday in August, the City Council and City employees visit BBQs and potlucks sponsored by Neighborhood Watch groups throughout the city to listen to residents and answer questions. This was such a great event; neighborhoods were alive with food, music, and fellowship. A wonderful photo journal of the evening's events is here for your viewing..
Right on the heels of National Night Out, I attended the annual "Back-to-School Resource Fair" at St. Mark's Lutheran Church. This is an important community event that provides backpacks and school supplies to children in the community who need them most. While the City was not able to participate the same way it had in prior years due to budget cuts, you would have barely noticed. Employees throughout the organization volunteered their time, and youth of all ages enjoyed all the police and fire vehicles that were on display.
In addition to participating in community events, our Police and Fire departments have worked in partnership with the school district and Suisun City for more than a year to launch the Public Safety Academy (PSA). This school is unique and the young adults who attend this school are inspirational. The PSA combines not only traditional academics, but a focus on discipline that is crucial for success. Also, because of the school's focus on public safety, our police officers and firefighters have an opportunity to build close relationships with the students and mentor them. While the hope is that some of the graduates of the PSA will become police officers and firefighters, just as important, if not more so, are the bonds that are established. I look forward to watching the progress of the students who attend this school.
During the month of August, I continued to meet with various community organizations with the Police and Fire chiefs to provide information on our fiscal situation. One of the questions that came up on a number of occasions is whether or not the City will declare bankruptcy. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that in July and August, Fairfield was mentioned in a number of articles on the rise of municipal bankruptcy and the potential for more to come.
It is important to be clear that the City of Fairfield is not on the verge of bankruptcy. However, we are facing a fiscal emergency. The characteristics of cities that filed for bankruptcy are not present in our community - our labor groups have agreed to salary and benefit concessions, the City has not borrowed excessively to build infrastructure, our workforce has been reduced (more than 20 percent in the last four years), pension reform was undertaken, and we have not relied on restricted funds to support the General Fund. Our fiscal emergency is due to State takeaways - more than $44 million in the last three years alone - and the recession.
Our situation is best summarized by Standard & Poor's, an organization that provides financial information on our City to investors. In July 2012, the City received an A+ rating with a Stable outlook on debt outstanding in its water utility. In August 2012, the City received an A rating with a Negative outlook on its pension obligation bonds, which in effect, is a rating on the City's General Fund. The rating on the water utility bonds is consistent with the rating the City received last year, but the rating received on the City's pension obligation bonds represents a downgrade from last year's A rating with a Stable outlook. The City was able to maintain an A rating on its pension obligation bonds due to its strong financial management, but received a Negative outlook because of concerns raised over the City's structural deficit and viability if new revenue is not secured. As stated at the July 2012 City Council meeting when Measure P was placed on the November 2012 ballot, the City will implement additional cuts if new revenue is not secured. While I believe this is not a desirable approach due to its impact on police, fire, and community services, bankruptcy is not an option.
If you would like to learn more about the City's budget challenges and/or the local revenue measure, or if you would like to establish a Neighborhood Watch group, please contact the City Manager's Office at 707-428-7400 or look within this website.