CALIFORNIA CITY — Looking for a means of increasing controls on city spending, the City Council unanimously agreed this week to move forward with a policy that would require a supermajority vote from four of the five members in order to spend funds from city reserves.
Mayor Pro Tem Gene Stump requested the move, which would reinstate an earlier city policy that had been in effect from January 2016 to October 2018.
“You can’t have a simple majority go out and arbitrarily spend reserves we worked so hard to build up,” he said.
In addition, Stump requested policy requiring a supermajority vote in order to change the policy in the future, to avoid the way the earlier rule was eliminated by a simple 3-2 vote, he said.
“It would prevent something like that where you have three people who want to take money out of reserves and spend it on something,” he said.
There is no requirement in state law or the Governmental Accounting Standards Board for a supermajority vote policy, although the Council may impose whatever restrictions on itself it chooses, Assistant City Attorney Baron Bettenhausen said.
Bettenhausen’s staff report noted the city budget is approved by a simple majority vote.
Supporters of requiring the four-vote supermajority — which were most of those speaking on the matter — said it would create better controls on spending by creating a higher hurdle for some decisions.
Opponents said it would slow down city business for the same reason.
“I believe our reserve monies are sacred and we should have a four-fifths majority to vote on our reserve moneys,” Councilman Donald Parris said.
“This is absolutely to save every penny we have,” Councilman Ron Smith said.
Councilman Nick Lessenevitch said he was not opposed to the policy in principle, but felt it was of little impact because the entire budget has not been truly balanced, as the supposed self-supporting enterprise funds already fall short and must be subsidized by the city’s General Fund.
“We have some financial problems to deal with, where I don’t think we can even come up with a balanced budget to the General Fund now,” he said. “I think we have some serious things to consider before this even becomes material.”
“We’re a little bit ahead of ourselves. I think we need to wait until we actually have a balanced budget to then begin to address what we’ll do when we spend our reserves,” Lessenevitch said.
The Council’s unanimous vote Tuesday was to direct Bettenhausen to craft a resolution with the policy requiring supermajority votes for spending from reserves and to change the policy itself.