City Council Adopts Approximately $30M Preliminary Budget

Memorial Park fence repairs and a social media intern position were among so-called consideration items that fell by the wayside as the La Cañada Flintridge City Council closed a $3.1 million funding gap and unanimously adopted an approximately $30 million preliminary budget on Monday.
A final budget will be presented to the council for adoption in July, according to City Manager Mark Alexander, who explained that to sustain municipal operations, the council needed to OK the preliminary budget before the new fiscal year began on Wednesday.
Consideration items included several projects submitted to the council for approval, including street resurfacing and air quality monitoring for the Devil’s Gate Dam sediment removal project. Council members greenlit most of the fund requests, but some had to be rejected or reduced to keep the preliminary budget afloat before Monday’s 5-0 vote.
Council members had a daunting task: approving a budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year while grappling with the economic effects of a worldwide pandemic. More than $1.15 million had already been slashed from projected city expenditures by June 17, the week the council began reviewing the budget proposal. Revenues for the new fiscal year were also projected at 2.6% lower than had been budgeted in the previous fiscal year, according to a report by Alexander.
It was also Alexander who, after informing the council on Monday that the $400,000 in funds available in the preliminary budget were not enough to pay for all the projects listed, presented several possible adjustments to even out the numbers.
“You do get to zero, which is where you want to be,” he told council members.
They agreed, for example, to decrease a $75,000 project improving the fence and gates at Memorial Park to only $5,000 – which will go to ensuring the park gate complies with Americans With Disabilities Act regulations.
A position that would have been filled by someone monitoring the city’s social media sphere was cut to save nearly $15,000, and funding for the annual citywide street resurfacing project was reduced from $1.25 million to $1 million.
But the bulk of the money needed to close the budget gap came from other sources, including gas tax and Measure R revenues and the general fund. From general fund reserves, $625,000 was also allocated to help pay for the consideration items, though Alexander explained that $375,000 of that amount had already been planned to be set aside for street improvements on Descanso Drive.
Mayor Michael Davitt said he approved of the choice to dip into reserves, citing the economic difficulty presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think this is a really unique year for us,” he said during Monday’s meeting, “and I think there’s a reason why, because of really great past practices and a strong community, that we’ve been able to have these reserves, and I think this is a good reason to use them.”
Other parts of the budget were also changed or updated to achieve a funding balance. Only one Fiesta Day, rather than two, will be held during the new fiscal year. All departments’ travel and meeting budgets were also cut in half.
The updated budget also included slight increases to projected revenues from property and sales tax, as well as parking fines, business license fees and a transfer from District 1’s Sewer Debt Service Fund. However, Alexander noted that these are merely revenue projections; there will be no increase in taxes charged because of them.
Alexander also said in his report to the council that revenues — particularly from the sales tax — are expected to be higher in 2020-21 than last year’s final revenue, due to expected reopenings of businesses.

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