Amid the massive economic slowdown created by the coronavirus pandemic — adding to an already multi-million-dollar deficit — Santa Clara politicians have opted to spend $170,000 for ongoing public relations work.
At its Tuesday night meeting, the Santa Clara Stadium Authority approved a 3-year contract extension with San Francisco-based PR firm Singer Associates Inc. The contract allows for another 3-year extension.
Since the contract specifies the work be “as needed,” Council Member Raj Chahal said he is comfortable with the City entering into the contract. Should PR services not be needed, he said, the City should save the money.
The contract comes amid a $10 million budget shortfall, and Kenn Lee, Finance Director, said that deficit will likely balloon to $23 million in 2020-21.
Many City departments have already seen drastic cuts, including the City’s utilities, with electric and water and sewer getting hit particularly hard, seeing $63 million and $5.4 million reductions respectively. City Manager Deanna Santana, who just got an 11 percent raise in January, also saw her department’s budget shrink by $324,000.
Still, the Council supported continuing to pursue avenues that bring money into the City, such as the Related Santa Clara project.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor said efforts such as ballot measures, the City’s transient occupancy tax (TOT) — a hotel surcharge — as well as leveraging City-owned properties are invaluable to get the City back on track.
“We can’t just keep thinking cut, cut, cut; we have to start thinking about how we are going to dig our way out of this,” Gillmor said.
Chahal said he supports trimming the budget from top to bottom, including his $2,000 monthly stipend for serving on the Council.
With a hiring freeze already in place and layoffs likely on the horizon, Santana told the Council that delays in response time for code enforcement and public safety may increase.
While the City has $80 million in one-time reserves, the Singer contract re-up adds to an already formidable public relations team on the City’s payroll. Circlepoint Communications and 3fold Communications also signed $100,000 contracts with the City in January.
The contract, approved on the consent calendar, is to provide “community engagement and outreach efforts” as well as create communication plans for “policies that require a high touch and strategic approach.”
City spokesperson Lenka Wright said roughly $70,000 of the Singer contract is unspent carryover from the original contract.
Still, the City came under heavy fire last year amid claims that it improperly bid two six-figure contracts with Singer, violated City code and failed to follow industry best practices. City officials have denied these accusations.
Consent Calendar Spending
Also approved, via the consent calendar, was $180,000 with Illinois-based Telvent USA to “allow for continued operability” of the City’s geographic information system.
The Council meets again Tuesday, May 26 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.