Submitted by Brad Gerbel
On March 20th of this year, the Coronado City Council overhauled the Community Grant program by providing more oversight for taxpayers and setting clear policy objectives for the program. The motion to pass this new ordinance was made by Mayor Richard Bailey and seconded by Councilman Bill Sandke. The new framework for the Community Grant program limited the total amount available for community grants to $1 million. The City Council later unanimously passed a fiscal year 2018 – 2019 budget that formally set the funding for the Community Grant program at $1 million.
On Tuesday, August 21st, the March exercise to reform the grant program, and provide protections to our tax dollars, was thrown out the window when Councilman Sandke pushed to exceed the agreed-upon budgeted amount of $1 million for community grants, by $381,000 (over thirty-eight percent). Yes, Councilmember Sandke voted to reform community grants (he actually seconded the motion) in March, approved a budget of $1 million in June, and moved to bust that budget by 38% just two months later.
During the lengthy discussion period, Councilman Sandke even suggested that the City Council risk running a deficit and tap the City’s reserves (our rainy-day fund) in order to fund community groups over and above the budgeted amount. The money in our City’s reserves is there because former city managers, former mayors and former members of the City Council exercised fiscal restraint and were able to save money over many years to build up a healthy reserve account.
Mayor Richard Bailey and Councilman Mike Donovan were both members of the working group that proposed the new Community Grant program guidelines, which the City Council unanimously passed. On Tuesday night, they were the only two councilmembers that voted to adhere to the taxpayer-protection policy and stick to the City’s budget. Nobody wants to be the bad guy, but it takes leaders with backbones to say “no” when tax dollars are on the line.
During the City Council meeting, Councilman Sandke uttered the words that he has said many times this year: “I’m bad at math.” I agree.
To attempt to blow through a budget only two months after approving it is financially irresponsible and disrespectful to taxpayers. What happened on Tuesday night in Coronado is the same thing that is going on in Sacramento and Washington, DC. Politicians say one thing when they run for office and vote differently once they’re elected.
Mayor Bailey and Councilman Donovan are to be commended for their firm convictions and for exercising fiscal prudence during Tuesday’s meeting. I think what Councilmember Sandke did represents a fundamental disrespect for taxpayers’ money and the extraordinary amount of hard work that is necessary for the Coronado taxpayers to generate the income required to pay their taxes. Politicians should never think that the City money is theirs – it belongs to the taxpayers. The City is merely entrusted to spend the money on behalf of the taxpayers.