Fullerton City Council failed to reach an agreement in regards to potential cuts to the fiscal year 2021-22 budget and the allocation of the $32.67 million in federal aid from the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA.
"For the third-straight city council meeting, you are addressing ARPA funds in the city budget,” said Tony Package, a 17-year Fullerton resident. “You all know the definition of insanity. Keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome. So please stop the insanity now.”
During public comment, Package was critical of the council’s inability to come up with a solution with this agenda item.
The topic of the ARPA funds was introduced by staff during two study sessions, on Aug. 17 and Sept. 14. The item was then added to the agenda and city council was supposed to come up with a solution on Oct. 5. After the council did not come to a solution or compromise, the agenda item was pushed to Oct. 19 and then was presented in Tuesday’s meeting.
The agenda item was split into two packages. Package A is the initial proposition that was presented to the city council in which the council chooses a budget adjustment scenario for fiscal year 2021-22.
From there, they must affirm the consensus rank order of city strategic priorities and decide whether the ARPA funds go to public safety, infrastructure, workforce or other categories.
Package A also states that the city council will then have to work with the city manager to find out how to allocate the remaining federal relief funds not obligated for revenue replacement within the limits of the U.S. Treasury categories.
If the city council still can’t come to an agreement, then city staff requests that the council adopt Package B which approves the initial use of ARPA funding as revenue replacement for government operations, and then allow the council to reconvene with a decision on where to use the remaining relief funds.
Mayor Pro Tem Nick Dunlap proposed a 5% cut and the $32 million from the ARPA funds to be designated for road repairs. Dunlap said that the city has failed with road work and that it is time that the city makes a significant investment in road work.
Mayor Bruce Whitaker seconded Dunlap’s motion, but the vote failed, 3-2.
Councilmembers Fred Jung and Jesus Silva proposed a 1% cut in the budget with the council to discuss which seven vacant positions to remove at a future meeting and no employee layoffs.
With no one compromising, Silva then suggested moving to Package B with Councilman Ahmad Zahra seconding his decision.
Jung suggested going back to scenario two in which the city council will cut 2%, and $8.7 million from ARPA funds will be allocated to revenue replacement of the council’s choosing.
“It’s obvious we can’t all agree. But at least let's give the staff, our residents and even ourselves an opportunity to move forward,” Jung said.
Whitaker said that he was concerned with how vague the scenario was concerning where $24 million would be allocated from the ARPA funds. Whitaker suggested that the funds be allocated to street and road work.
Lucinda Williams, city clerk, presented another roll call in which Jung tried to compromise with Whitaker.
“We have a substitute motion from Councilmember Jung for scenario two, which is a 2%. And I believe they're changing the wording to dedicate the funding for streets,” Williams said.
The vote for scenario two failed, 3-2, with only Jung and Whitaker agreeing on the motion. The motion presented by Silva to adopt Package B also failed, with the night again concluding at a standstill on the agenda item for the budget cuts and federal relief funds.