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Artesia City Council Passes Balanced Budget, Union Contract in Light of Economic Downturn


BY BRIAN HEWS  • June 25, 2020

Despite an economic downturn, Artesia passed a balanced budget and a robust contract with its employee union at its special meeting held June 23.

The Artesia City Council also discussed – and ultimately voted unanimously to pass – a new contract with the employee union Local 1520 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

Artesia Mayor Ali Taj

Mayor Ali Sajjad Taj told HMG-LCCN, “In the League of California Cities, something like nine out of ten  cities are facing really tough decisions right now because of the economic downturn, facing layoffs and drastic budget cuts. But Artesia, thanks to its large emergency reserve at 116 percent of its operating budget, is in a good spot economically. Thanks to City Manager Bill Rawlings, his negotiation team, and the union’s negotiation team under the leadership of Union President Andrew Perry.”

Other councilmember’s expressed similar statements of pride at Artesia’s fiscal stability.

Rawlings said, “I’ve been doing this for 35 years, and this particular budget has by far been the hardest. I’d like to thank the Finance team and those staff that helped put this together, everyone worked really hard. I’m hopeful that the economy will turn within the next two to three years. We wanted to offer our community stability, we wanted to offer our employees stability, and that’s why the budget is structured as it is.”

Councilmember Miguel Canales asked City Manager Bill Rawlings, “Let me get this straight. In the face of an economic downturn, you’re proposing a balanced budget without layoffs, with no furloughs, and you’re also proposing this contract with the union?’

Rawlings replied, “Yes sir.”

Canales reminisced when he first came in as a councilmember in 2011, when the Council was facing a fiscal emergency with a low reserve from the previous recession. Canales congratulated Rawlings on the successful budget and contract.

Andrew Perry is the Union President of AFSCME Local 1520 – Artesia Municipal Employees. He talked about the negotiation process. “A good friend of mine once told me that the bargaining process is supposed to feel like each party left something on the table, and at the same time each party took something from the table. It had good moments, it had a few frustrating moments, but in the end we really came together and created a solid contract. I’m glad we finally finished the negotiation process, and I’m even more exuberant that the Council voted unanimously in favor of it. I’m very grateful.”

“In light of the economic downturn,” Perry continued, “I’m actually a little bit proud of the effectiveness of the City’s financial strategy the last couple of years. My hat’s off to City and its financial team who, over the years, managed to save enough into the emergency reserve so that it sits at more than 116 percent of the City’s operating budget. That is an amazing feat of financial frugality, and since we’re one of the few cities that will not be laying off employees, that frugality has surely paid off!”

Councilmember Melissa Ramoso said, “When we first started discussing this budget and the MOU (the union contract), I wanted to make sure we didn’t have any layoffs. Mr. Rawlings, you have done that. We did have to reduce department expenditures, but not at the expense of employees. We are still maintaining community services, and I wanted to thank you.” Ramoso also expressed that the City should begin reviewing its contract with the LA County Sheriff’s Department, to see if there are ways to reprioritize in how it delivers its services, or whether there are certain services that can be delivered by agencies other than the sheriffs.

Mayor Pro Tem Rene Trevino said “Over the last several years, we have seen the financial stability of the City under the leadership of City Manager Bill Rawlings.  It’s amazing that we’re sitting here tonight with a balanced budget that has been given to us to approve. I’ve seen other council meetings from other cities in our region, and their councils had to make decisions on what to cut. I’m a small business owner, and any business owner knows that the employees are its most valuable resource. The union has said the negotiations have been long, but the process has been fair, and that is very important. I echo Councilmember Canales in that the very fact that we are looking at a balanced budget tonight is truly amazing. Thanks to the union too, and Union President Andrew Perry, for a job well done.”

Trevino continued, “I remember a meeting several years ago about the emergency reserve. Someone asked how much money should be in the reserves? And Rawlings replied, ’You can never have enough.’ Imagine if we only had $2 million in our reserves; this night’s conversation would have had a very different mood.”







  • Lizbeth says:

    Congratulations Artesia residents that is a big deal. We just got let go in our city. Come to Hawaiian Gardens to help the the council with their finances.