Friday, August 29, 2014

Interim city manager is skilled at dealing with fiscal crisis


Interim Davis City Manager Gene Rogers, left, chats with outgoing City Manager Steve Pinkerton at a city of Davis environmental awards reception on April 22 at City Hall. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

From page A1 | May 09, 2014 |

Davis’ new interim city manager, Gene Rogers, has an extensive résumé that runs a gamut of fiscal crisis and different flavors of local governments.

From Moreno Valley in Southern California to the Monterey County Resources Management Agency to the city of Coachella, Rogers has weathered his fair share of local government challenges.

“There’s nothing fun about going through budget cuts and there’s nothing fun about going through tax elections,” he said, but that is just what Rogers has done through much of his tenure as a government manager.

When he was hired, the city touted Rogers’ experience, and for good reason, owing to the fact that Davis faces its own fiscal challenge.

Even if Measure O, the city’s proposed half-percent sales tax measure, passes in June, Rogers said Davis will not have solved its current budget problems — although “the severity of the problem will be diminished considerably in the short term,” he said in an email.

Regardless of whether the measure passes, there are $1.1 million in additional cuts planned for next fiscal year and a general fund deficit approaching about $1 million for that budget.

That’s due in part, Rogers said, “because the sales taxes would not be collected until the second quarter of next fiscal year, thus dropping the general fund reserves … to roughly $4 million by the end of next fiscal year and, assuming no additional cuts, it is projected that the structural deficit will continue into the fiscal years beyond.”

Roads are another problem.

Rogers said a recent study of the city’s roads and bicycle paths showed the average condition of each was considered fair, “which means that the average road is at risk of failure,” Rogers said.

The study recommended a program to “shore up the condition of the roads and bike paths to prevent further deterioration,” Rogers said. Doing this before the roads fall too far down in condition makes it far less expensive to fix the pavement in the long term.

Rogers said although the City Council more than doubled the money set aside for the maintenance program this fiscal year, and the same allocation is projected in the next budget, the amount falls far short of bringing the streets and paths back to what the city calls the “desired level of service.”

As bad as all that sounds, Rogers has seen it worse.

In Moreno Valley in the early 1990s, the Inland Empire housing boom had just gone bust. For the city of more than 120,000 residents at the time — it has nearly 200,000 now — and Rogers, who rose from assistant city manager to city manager, this presented a special challenge.

According to an Oct. 28, 1996, article in the Los Angeles Times, Moreno Valley had been a boomtown riding a high of developer fees as subdivision after subdivision was built after the city incorporated in 1984. Yet when recession hit in the early 1990s and developers held back, Rogers said the fuel that kept the city running fell short. That hit Moreno Valley hard.

To be clear, Rogers said the city had an idea the party was over.

“We saw the trend coming, so we dealt with it in 1990,” he said.

The solution: a 6 percent utility users tax, a common form of local government tax levied on everything from telephones to water to electricity.

Far from the wild fluctuations of developer impact fees, the tax offered the city a more steady source of income, but Moreno Valley still had to shrink its development services department due to lack of demand.

The city ended up eliminating roughly 100 positions, Rogers said. He’s not sure of the exact number, but he is dead sure how many of those positions were filled by employees who were laid off: 55.

A 1995 court decision meant the voters would have to ratify the tax they had been paying, so the Moreno Valley City Council placed it on the ballot in 1996. After a flurry of campaigning, the tax failed. But according to the Los Angeles Times, only 17 percent of the city voters cast a ballot on the matter.

Without the tax, there were a few budget scenarios that showed the city could have faced bankruptcy, according to the Times.

But Rogers said a group of citizens concerned about city finances pushed the tax as an initiative. That time, it barely won. Anti -tax forces tried to repeal it in subsequent years, but by then support for the tax had gained strength.

Rogers retired from Moreno Valley in 2006, just before the most recent financial crisis. This time, too, he knew the good times couldn’t last.

“By putting in place policies related to development,” he said “… we had taken some steps to ensure the bust wasn’t as steep.”

After Moreno Valley, Rogers worked for a nonprofit, and then got into hiring himself out as an interim city manager. The city of Coachella, a community of 45,000 people in the Palms Springs area, was one agency that took him up on his offer in 2009.

Coachella was not as affluent as Moreno Valley, Rogers said. According to state records, Coachella is part of the Coachella Valley Enterprise Zone Authority, formed to stimulate business in depressed areas.

Here again, Rogers found himself with a city facing a deficit and city that was considering a 5 percent utility users tax to help right itself.

According to local TV station KESQ, unemployment was 23.1 percent.

A first tax measure fell short at the polls in 2009, but the next year the city led a successful effort to pass the tax and generate an estimated $1.1 million annually for city coffers.

Rogers said without the tax, the city would have been bankrupt within three years.

Talking in his new office at Davis City Hall, barely eight days into his tenure as another interim city manager while Davis seeks a permanent leader, Rogers is mindful of what kind of reputation might precede him.

“I don’t know if I want my whole career defined by taxes,” he said, but he also signed up for a job that, at least on its face, will have history repeating itself for him again.

— Reach Dave Ryan at or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews



  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    Davis Innovation Center team fields questions

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Saving Putah Creek: a quiet concert at sunset

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Mr. Dolcini goes to Washington

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Winton to be feted for her many years of community work

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Researchers solve mystery of Death Valley’s moving rocks

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    California extends review of $25B delta plan

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Assembly approves statewide ban on plastic bags

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Forum explores local mental health services

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Solar-cooking workshop set at Food Co-op

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Celebrate the Senior Center at Sept. 9 luncheon

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Equestrian eventing competition slated

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Dinner, auction benefit Yolo County CASA

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Kids can sign up for a library card and get a free book

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Explorit Science Center: Volunteers supercharge summer camp

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    Tee off for Davis’ continued prosperity

    By Lily Holmes | From Page: A4

    Bodega Marine Laboratory hosts open house

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Local group charts a year’s worth of beauty in flowers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Free blood pressure screenings offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Name Droppers: UCD honors two of its own

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

    Books, conversation and poetry at Logos

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7



    Let’s sell the MRAP on eBay

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    Seeing both sides of ‘tank’

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    What if we need MRAP?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    How could tank be helpful?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: C2

    Don’t sentence our police to death

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: C2, 1 Comment

    Will Davis see river water?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

    Travel buddy is getting too fat

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5



    Forget the score; focus on the energy brought by Aggies

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

    Returning seniors, new faces lead promising DHS links squad

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devil golfers return from Scotland with smiles on their faces

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devils scrimmage with Sac

    By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    UCD-Stanford: the clock is down to counting the minutes

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

    Sports briefs: DHS girls fall by the slimmest of net margins

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6 | Gallery

    Wire briefs: Aces cruise past Cats at Raley

    By Wire and staff reports | From Page: B6





    ‘The November Man’: Who can be trusted?

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    B Street’s ‘The Ladies Foursome’ is aces

    By Bev Sykes | From Page: A9 | Gallery



    Technology makes a great car better

    By Ali Arsham | From Page: C1 | Gallery



    Margarita Elizondo

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Elaine Dracia Greenberg

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4