Let's Dig Through A Budget!

by CalWatchdog Staff | July 30, 2010 10:40 am

Katy Grimes – I spoke with a man yesterday who was looking for information about his city council salaries and benefits. So I did a little digging into the beautiful southern California coastal town of Laguna Niguel, an sent him instructions on how to do his own research.

Starting with a the link to the Laguna Niguel city budget: Budget[1] FY 2010-2011 (Large file 4 Mgs – the [2]City[3] of [4]Laguna Niguel[5] [6]…[7] the table of contents lists where the City Council budget, expenses, stipends, and operating costs can be located (pages 16-18).

The population of Laguna Niguel 64,680, and the median income is $103,048. The part-time City Council is paid a stipend plus expenses. That was not egregious although, paying “expenses” can be cover for many bad habits.

The Laguna Niguel City Manager salary is not delineated from other staff, but I found a recent story that stated his salary is $311,463 annually.

He has an annual department budget of $947,000, and pays $71,000 for “Employee Recognition programs.” How could the City Manager possibly need $71,000 for “employee recognition programs?” Is that the new secret code for “bonuses?”

There’s another $20,000 for “recruitment” listed, but begs the question why is the City Manager trying to recruit people, and why $20,000 is needed, when Craig’s List or even the online classifieds for Orange County is a cheap and easy way to recruit.

The City Manager has $72,000 alloted for federal lobbying. I wonder who the city’s lobbyist is. What federal issues could Laguna Niguel be facing?

There is even another $6,000 allotted for “Personnel Services,” which should be covered by city manager staff under Human Resources. It would be interesting to see how that money is spent.

It looks as if the City Clerk is paid $133,000 plus another $70,000 in department benefits.

The City Clerk budget has $69,000 allotted for “elections,” and another $6,350 for “elections consultant,”  whatever that is.

The city spends $297,000 annually on legal services. I wonder what law firm the city uses… could it be the law firm of one of the council members who happens to be a lawyer?

The finance department has a $550,000 budget for salaries, $270,470 and benefits, with $17,500 listed as “special department expense,” whatever that is… sounds like a slush fund.

What’s really weird about the police chief is that all of the Laguna Niguel policing services are contracted to the Orange County Sheriff’s department through an $8.9 million contract. But, the police chief is still  paid $67,000 in salary and benefits, and is responsible for all public safety services in Laguna Niguel.

That may sound innocuous enough however, the glaring budget item is $171,000 for crossing guard services! Why would a small city spend $171,000 on “crossing guard services?” (pages 35-36)

There is even an additional $50,000 alloted to the Neighborhood Watch program.

Still listed under Public Safety, the city spends $6,000 for a one-day seminar, probably for the police chief’s travel and expenses. There is $7,000 for clothing, $18,900 for communications, and $63,500 to the Emergency Preparedness plan, but no explanation where the money goes for that plan goes.

The Animal Control funding is $339,000, and again, with no detail or explanation how the money is used.

I’m not trying to pick on beautiful Laguna Niguel, but the beach town’s budget is an excellent example of unaccountable spending, and again, has a very well-compensated City Manager.

Other southern California cities pay high as well. According to a July 27, 2010 story in the Press Enterprise, Corona’s City Manager is paid $230,256 a year, the Loma Linda City Manager is paid $175,000 a year, and Riverside’s City Manager salary is $294,525. (City[8] Officials Highly Paid?[9])

The easiest way to find a city budget is to google the city name, and city council. Once inside the city website, search for “budget.”

I recommend spending time reading through each department’s expenses — that’s where you’ll find unaccounted for expenses and special funds with no real designation.

  1. Budget: http://www.ci.laguna-niguel.ca.us/DocumentView.aspx?DID=426
  2. FY 2010-2011 (Large file 4 Mgs – the : http://www.ci.laguna-niguel.ca.us/DocumentView.aspx?DID=426
  3. City: http://www.ci.laguna-niguel.ca.us/DocumentView.aspx?DID=426
  4. of : http://www.ci.laguna-niguel.ca.us/DocumentView.aspx?DID=426
  5. Laguna Niguel: http://www.ci.laguna-niguel.ca.us/DocumentView.aspx?DID=426
  6. : http://www.ci.laguna-niguel.ca.us/DocumentView.aspx?DID=426
  7. …: http://www.ci.laguna-niguel.ca.us/DocumentView.aspx?DID=426
  8. City: http://www.pe.com/columns/cassiemacduff/stories/PE_News_Local_D_cass27.4617acb.html
  9. Officials Highly Paid?: http://www.pe.com/columns/cassiemacduff/stories/PE_News_Local_D_cass27.4617acb.html

Source URL: https://calwatchdog.com/2010/07/30/lets-dig-through-a-budget/