Clayton must decide how to address budget shortfall in ‘23

CLAYTON, CA — To tax, or not to tax, that is the question.

Clayton is facing a financial crossroads that will decide our city’s future. Do we remain a viable city, with viable services and talent, or do we cut back?

While our city budget will carry us through fiscal year 2022 (ending in June ’22), we are projecting deficits going forward. That means we are spending more than we are taking in. This is due to the lion’s share of our income, our property taxes, not growing as quickly as commitments, such as to our Police Department and staff.

Clayton does have considerable reserves; however, spending down those reserves is unsustainable long-term. Once those funds are spent, they do not automatically replenish. Also, upcoming money from the American Rescue Plan is one-time funding and has limitations on its use.

Wages make up the largest percentage of our budget, yet even with small to moderate wage increases, our general staff and police are still the lowest paid in the county, and our current ability to keep pace with other cities is nil.

The city continues to have a difficult time attracting and keeping, highly qualified individuals. Those who do take positions here often stay for only a few years and then take their Clayton “training” to other cities and immediately benefit financially.

Your City Council will soon discuss ideas and possible solutions to this dilemma. With deficits looming as early as fiscal year 2023, now is the time for you, our citizens, to voice your thoughts and suggestions.

So, what do we as a city want? Choices range from raising taxes to reducing services to unincorporating. Yes, while far-fetched, we could take the drastic measure of choosing to unincorporate and fall under the county’s jurisdiction, although I cannot imagine that any Claytonian would seriously consider this option.

Drastic cost cutting would result in a reduction of city services, police protection and property values and would still not get us to where we need to be.

As I see it, the best course of action would be for Clayton to raise the sales tax and add an additional parcel tax to continue our services and attract viable, long-term candidates for city staff and police. That figure could be in the $250 per parcel range, with future increases built in.

We live in one of the most charming and safest cities in California, and it is a privilege. This is something to enjoy but no longer take for granted.

We must now make some hard choices regarding our future. Do we give up our current way of life, or do we choose to add the funds needed to sustain our long-term viability as a city and community?

Please consider attending upcoming City Council meetings as we discuss this matter and please weigh in with your thoughts.
The decision is yours, and we are stronger together.

Send questions and comments to or call (925) 673-7324