Council Spells Out City Budget Plans

During two sessions of budget discussions in the past week, La Cañada Flintridge City Council members agreed to designate reserve funds in support of the proposed Sagebrush territory transfer, prepared for the possible repeal of the state gas tax, and dedicated $353,425 to support 11 community groups.
The City Council is set to finalize the budget for the coming fiscal year when it reconvenes for its third budget hearing at 8:30 a.m. today, June 28.
Councilman Jonathan Curtis suggested the city earmark $100,000 in reserves to back up La Cañada Unified School District in the latest chapter of a decades-long tug of war over the Sagebrush territory.
Following four years of negotiations between Glendale Unified School District and LCUSD, the L.A. County Committee on School District Organization last year granted preliminary approval of the transfer of 385 acres of western La Cañada Flintridge from GUSD to LCUSD. The county awaits the results of an ongoing environmental impact report before it issues its final ruling.
Progress on another lengthy local fight inspired the idea to dedicate some reserves to supporting the transfer, Curtis said.
With the proposed 710 Freeway tunnel project shelved by the L.A. Metro board last year, LCF will eliminate the $500,000 in reserves it budgeted in recent years for potential expenses related to fighting that proposed project.
“So we thought maybe now is the time to at least … reserve a modest amount, especially when we’re moving out the 710 [funding],” Curtis said. “Maybe set aside $100,000 in anticipation that may be needed in the future for the territory transfer.”
City Manager Mark Alexander noted that although the reserves would be earmarked for “joint-use” funding purpose, no money would be appropriated without the council’s approval.
“It would help negotiations with Glendale if they see the school district has the city’s support,” Mayor Terry Walker said. “So if they need the additional financial support, we have the line item saying, ‘The city is committed to supporting this if need be.’”
In recent polling, Californians have signaled that they’re prepared to repeal the new gas tax in the Nov. 6 election. With SB1 in place, LCF will receive $342,950 for street and traffic lighting, maintenance and sweeping. If the tax is repealed, LCF instead would receive $114,325 from the tax, Alexander said.
Drawing from the city’s Property Acquisition Fund, council members also agreed to spend a total of $97,750 for the use and improvement of the new City Hall building located in the Town Center, which city staff indicated should be open at the start of January.
The city also will dedicate $1,227,750 toward parks and landscaping, including $199,025 in park maintenance, $40,000 in trail maintenance and $290,000 in joint-use site maintenance — which accounts for the bulk of a total of $477,625 the city will spend next year to support joint-use operations shared by both the city and the school district.
Beyond that, the city will appropriate $1,283,375 for what it identifies as school district operations, such as shuttle bus service ($268,600), the sheriff’s school resource officer ($182,175) and crossing guards ($115,200).
The city also will spend $692,900 on a road improvement project at Gould Avenue and Knight Way as well as $18,000 on intersection improvements at Fairmount Avenue and Earlmont Avenue, improvements that Alexander characterized as “related to pedestrian traffic around schools.”
Not included in the current parks and landscaping budget are funds to repair the aging tennis courts on Cornishon Boulevard, which city staffer Arabo Parseghian expects to be unplayable by next summer unless they’re repaired.
He explained that improvement project has not yet received approval from the joint-use committee, which is determining how to cover the $120,000 it will cost to resurface the courts. (It would run approximately $400,000 to completely rebuild them, Parseghian said.) Parseghian warned that the deadline to decide to make the repairs is next January, in order to allow the Public Works Department sufficient lead time to prepare for the project.
Otherwise, a who’s who of local organizations and programs attended Monday’s budget hearing, with representatives of each group making their cases for funding. The City Council fully granted each request with the exception of Descanso Gardens’ appeal for $21,000 to cover new water fountains and bike racks at the front courtyard area of the county-owned botanical garden.
“My only concern is that they have the biggest ability to raise funds on their own,” said Councilman Greg Brown, proposing that the city split up the funding.
In the end, city officials decided to investigate whether there might be Air Quality Management District funding available to cover the bike racks. In the meantime, they agreed to contribute $5,000 for the water fountains.
Tyler Wright, YMCA of the Foothills’ executive director, offered his own revision, asking for $26,000 instead of the $35,000 he’d planned to request; Life Fitness already agreed to cover the cost of all the exercise equipment that will be included in the YMCA’s new mobile gym. The city’s donation will help cover the vehicle, Wright said.
The other community groups who received city funding included the Lanterman Historical Museum Foundation ($119,875); LCF Chamber of Commerce and Community Association ($110,000); the Community Center of LCF ($50,000); LCF Tournament of Roses Association ($14,000); La Cañada Beautiful ($12,000); LCHS Music Parents Association ($5,000); LCF Sister Cities Association ($5,000); the LCF Coordinating Council ($5,000); and the La Cañada Flintridge Library’s “One City, One Book” program ($1,500).

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