Monday, March 22, 2010
ECCL Busting City Budget
by Mr. X
Taxpayers have spent $2.633 million so far on a pile of blueprints for a building that may never open its doors.
The Emeryville Center of Community Life, an elementary---junior high---high school---recreation center---senior center---library and police station; a project so bold and audacious that some residents have dismissed it as a legacy project for the City Council's old guard, is busting the city's budget. All while the first shovel of dirt is yet unturned. Known around city hall as the ECCL, it's projected cost is $125 million. In January the council added another $1.35 million to architect/design contracts and for "soft costs" associated with the project. The school district has put $330,000 into the kitty for the project or $462 for each student enrolled in the district. This figure doesn't include the payroll of city employees while working on the project.
Neither the city nor the School District has made an attempt to calculate the costly staff time expended on ECCL, but officials admit privately that the number is substantial. The money is not recoverable in any way as some budgetary allocations are and this money is gone forever.
At the same time officials are shoveling money at this project----which has yet to be proven a workable model in any respect----the world fiscal crisis is tightening its grip on city finances today. Rather than rein in spending on an unproven project, the city council is looking at raising taxes and cutting services; both unpopular choices with residents. The imposition of a 'Lighting and Landscaping' tax on property and the privatization of both the Child Development Center and recreation center are just around the corner.
$122.4 Million Still To Go
If the ECCL's price tag remains $125 million, the number insisted on by authorities, taxpayers are still on the hook for another $122.4 million. Unknown, are the likely higher costs for operating, staffing and maintaining the Center compared to current facilities. The jarring fiscal asymmetry between the large amount for the Center of Community Life and the austerity on items in the rest of the project's budget have inspired some residents to deem it a 'legacy project' for aging "1970s reformers" on the council who finally seem ready to retire. City officials have acknowledged this and sought, over the past two years, to convince the public with a series of propagandistic mailers touting the Center's benefits. The residents, for their part, will have a chance to weigh in on the Center of Community Life in a citywide bond funding initiative on November 2nd.