Upland 2015-16 Budget Passage Betrays Unanticipated City Council Realignment

(July 29) The Upland City Council’s approval of its $43 million 2015-16 budget revealed a somewhat baffling political realignment, which observers were unable to discern as being merely temporary or one of perhaps lasting significance. What is yet more puzzling is that even as the realignment was taking place, two of the newly emerging allies continued to fling caustic barbs at one another, making it seem to all the world that they were poised at opposite ends of the local political spectrum. Nevertheless, after the sound and rhetoric died down, both found themselves on the winning side of a 3-2 vote.
Since even before he was elected to the Upland City Council in 2012, Glenn Bozar has represented himself as a “taxpayer advocate.” Until he retired earlier this year, Bozar was a logistics manager for the major West Coast distribution center for Tyco Connectivity, a $13 billion company. As a councilmember he has continuously pushed the council and the city into adopting fiscal management procedures and accountability standards as are normally applied in the private sector. His fiscally conservative approach has included calling for the elimination of municipal employees who cannot be clearly identified as providing service to the city’s residents and he has committed himself to what some consider to be a “crusade” to head off a pending future pension crisis that will result in the city spending more money annually on the pensions of retired employees than on the salaries of current employees. This has earned Bozar the enmity of the city’s employee unions.
Meanwhile, Gino Filippi, who was elected to the city council two years before Bozar was, enjoyed from the outset the support of city employee unions, most notably the unions for the city’s firefighters as well as its policemen.
This week, as the city council considered the 2015-16 budget prepared for the city by city manager Rob Butler and finance director Scott Williams, more than four dozen domesticated animal lovers flooded into City Hall in what would inevitably prove to be a futile effort to dissuade the city council from significantly paring back animal control and protection operations run out of the Upland Animal Shelter. For years, Upland’s previous animal shelter was considered to be an inferior one. That changed in 2010, however, when the city completed, at a cost of more than $6 million, what is now considered to be the Inland Empire’s premier municipally-run animal housing facility. Last year the city spent $950,000 on its animal control operations, almost 2.5 percent of its overall $39 million budget. With Upland’s budget zooming to $43 million this year, it was the hope and wishful expectation that the city council would continue with and perhaps even increase the amount of money to be provided to such operations in 2015-16. Over the last month and a half, as preliminary discussions over how the budget would shape up were ongoing and then after the council missed the customary June 30 deadline to settle on the budget before the initiation of the governmental fiscal year beginning July 1, word spread that the council likely would reduce the animal shelter’s budget. Such an economy in that operation was necessary, city officials said, in the face of increasing pension costs and the desire of the council collectively to at least partially meet newly appointed police chief Brian Johnson’s request for an increase in his department’s budget.
As the chairman of Upland’s finance committee, Bozar was the prime mover toward wielding the budget ax in the direction of the city’s animal control division, a role which has made him decidedly unpopular among that portion of the city’s populace who see the humane treatment of animals as a first line indication of Upland to live up to its reputation as The City of Gracious Living.
Layered into the budget the city council was scheduled to vote on Monday night was a $350,000 cut to the animal shelter, with a provision that the savings from that move be utilized to partially defray a $529,632 increase in police department operations, which on paper is intended to pay for four new police officers and four part-time police service technicians.
In a last-ditch effort to prevent the animal shelter from seeing its budget reduced, over 25 people pleaded, cajoled and alternately demanded that the council keep the animal shelter funded to its traditional level. That lobbying effort delayed the final vote on the budget until Tuesday morning.
Along the way, Filippi and Bozar got into something of a tiff over what Filippi suggested was Bozar’s tightfistedness. Notably, however, Filippi did not take issue so much with Bozar’s unwillingness to keep the animal shelter funded at the level to which it has become accustomed, but rather over an additional $50,000 in funding Filippi wanted to have go to the library.
In recent months, a coalition involving Bozar, Mayor Ray Musser and councilwoman Carol Timm, who was elected last year, appeared to be solidifying with regard to many city issues, leaving Filippi and councilwoman Debbie Stone on the outside looking in.
On Monday night/early Tuesday morning, however, Musser appeared to be angling at a compromise that would have taken money out of the anticipated $413,000 surplus in the budget worked out by Butler and Williams to satisfy Filippi as well as the animal lovers in the house. The mayor proposed reducing the $350,000 in reductions to the animal shelter by half – $175,000 – while restoring the $50,000 to the library’s budget that Filippi was asking for. This would have reduced the $413,008 budget surplus to $188,008. But Bozar, relying upon the authority and status he possesses as the chairman of the city’s finance committee, resisted. He suggested the animal shelter should tighten its operations and that the budget surplus should remain in the city’s reserve accounts rather than being frittered away on dogs and cats and books, all of which are, he suggested, less than crucial to the city’s municipal operations.
This, and Bozar’s insinuation that Filippi was seeking the extra $50,000 for the library out of some base political motive, which he derided as “horse trading,” nearly sent Filippi into orbit. Filippi criticized Bozar’s earlier insistence that the city spend $2 million on a computerized accounting system to be used by the finance department for monitoring spending activity in all of the city’s departments. The council had originally rejected investing in such a system but Bozar had persisted in resurrecting the idea, and when it was reintroduced, the council voted to approve making that purchase.
Filippi sought to remind Bozar that the city has already wrung some $200,000 in annual savings from the library program by outsourcing it to a private company.
“We’re trying to honor the agreement we made the public for library services and you say I’m up here politicking? That’s not true,” Filippi said.
When Stone, who is with Bozar and city treasurer Dan Morgan a member of the city finance committee, vectored attention to the need for belt tightening, she seemingly, and somewhat remarkably, herded Filippi into line with Bozar. “We have to look at the whole city,” she said. “We have to look at what’s beneficial. Running the shelter as we are right now is no longer status quo. We can’t do it, we can’t afford it.”
Filippi then voted, as is his wont, in lockstep with Stone, with whom he has been firmly aligned for more than two years. The unlikely troika of Bozar, Stone and Filippi voted to approve the budget as put together by Butler and Williams, with the $350,000 cut to animal services, the $529,632 increase for the police department, no restoration of money to the library and with the $413,008 surplus intact. Musser and councilwoman Timm dissented in the vote.

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