City Council Approves Balanced Budget

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City Council members on Friday approved a balanced 2017-18 budget of $28.9 million to cover operating costs and capital improvement plans while maintaining matching reserves.
San Marino’s budget — which includes an increase in fund balances of $398,863 from the previous year — will include operating costs of $24 million, $3.0 in capital improvement projects and $1 million in capital equipment purchases, interim Finance Director Misty Cheng said.
Proposed expenditures from the unrestricted funds for the coming fiscal year total $27.6 million, which is $1.8 million less than 2016-17, a decrease that’s due largely to a reduction in CalPERS UAL payments and fewer capital expenditures.
The city’s operating budget of $24.01 million is to be divided up between services: The Police Department will receive $6.71 million (28% of the pie); the Fire Department and Emergency Services is set to get $6.26 million (26%); Parks and Public Works will see $3.39 million (14%); the city’s administrative services receives $2.78 million (12%); recreation gets $2.12 million and the library receives $1.58 million (6%).
“When we’re out and about, the largest concern people express is for public safety,” Councilman Steve Talt said. “I do commend you for the effort you’ve made with the staff you have, but technically speaking, is there anything you perceive that you would like to help fight crime?”
Police Chief John Incontro said his department is planning to explore the introduction of a sampling of technological items, including fixed cameras, license plate readers and potentially a drone that would allow officers to have a view of the back of a home in the event of a possible burglary.
He also has interest in some human measures, such as the addition of a pair of cadets who could handle minor crime reports in order to free up officers for matters of higher importance.
Incontro — whose department is in the process of filling four vacancies — also advocated for resident involvement in keeping their neighborhood safe. The department plans to do outreach during a National Night Out event it will host from 4-9 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 1, at Lacy Park, he said.
In the coming year, the Fire Department plans to add a new engine to replace its outdated 20-year-old model onto which not all of firefighters’ paramedic supplies even fit. There are also plans to put to use a state-of-the-art defibrillator that can report a patient’s vital signs directly to a medical staff at a hospital.
The department will become one of the few in the county who will be reimbursed — by an expected $74,000, Chief Mario Rueda said, by L.A. County for paramedic services its personnel provides outside of the city.
The Parks and Recreation department continued to produce a 70% return on expenditures in 2016-17, but council members discussed whether that threshold, which was established in 2001, is sufficient in 2017.
Councilman Dr. Steven Huang suggested that compared to its initial $325,000 budget years ago, the department’s current $2.1 million budget is outsized.
“I believe we should have 100% return for this department,” he said. “It’s not a necessity and also we have to worry about the pension for all the staff. And, bear in mind, the recreation department doesn’t have to pay rent for all the buildings they use. And on top of that, we have to pay out 30% of their expenses. … and I get a lot of resident complaints that sometimes they feel like they’re not using it but they’re paying for non-residents.”
The City Council directed department personnel to keep tabs on how many non-residents use the services in the coming fiscal year before it decides whether to raise the non-resident fee and maybe make other cuts.
“We’re starting to run the city like a small business,” said Huang, who was the sole vote against the Recreation Department’s proposed budget. “In the private sector, most people would [not accept] this loss.”
Countered Mayor Dr. Richard Sun: “The city is not here to make a profit, we’re here to provide services to the residents and hopefully most of your residents will attend, so they will have a sense of belonging. Not every department is going to make money.”
Added Talt: “There’s a balance and we’ve got to find where that balance is. A municipality should provide the best available atmosphere for its residents and the Recreation Department does do it, but if there are things that just aren’t working, then they ought to be cut.”

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