Mayor Shares State of the City Report With Rotary

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In one of his first major addresses as mayor, Steve Talt outlined to the Rotary Club of San Marino the City Council’s plan to identify and target financial investments with the goal of altering the city’s future.
In his State of the City presentation to the club last week, Talt focused on two areas: where the city stands and what decisions will have to be made in the coming months. He has a City Council with three new members and a largely new administration in City Hall to help.
“With this new council, we are moving as quickly as possible to put an agenda in place that makes sure what you expect of San Marino as a resident and business person continues to be the best,” he said.
Depending on what they decide to do, it’s going to be an easier check to write than it would be in virtually every other city in the county: San Marino’s general fund reserves sit at a whopping $23.45 million.
“Now, what we should do with that reserve is under discussion right now,” Talt explained. “The reserve is approximately 106% of our annual general fund budget. Most cities are averaging anywhere between 10% and 25%. That’s the big picture. Even though it looks great, there are lots of little ailments in there that we have to worry about.”
Those ailments include a growing list of deferred infrastructure maintenance in town and also the city’s pension liability with California Public Employees Retirement System, or CalPERS; officially, the city is on the hook for more than $25 million, but some estimates put that at closer to $90 million.
“It’s a little like catching a fly,” Talt conceded. “Every time you reach for it, it changes.”
As a long-term financial strategy ad hoc committee works to develop a potential solution to the pension issue, Talt said the city will continue to keep its benefit offerings low to prevent exacerbating the issue and also continue to lobby for the state to alter its own policies on CalPERS.
That committee also will tentatively answer questions regarding the city’s fund balance, its deferred maintenance and investment policies.
“They will be taking a look at all the information they can to answer these questions,” Talt said. “Right now, we don’t have reserve policy. We just stick the money in there.”
Talt also explained how much turnover had occurred within City Hall recently, not limited to the recent City Council election: There are new faces at city manager, administrative services director, human resources, public works, engineering and accounting.
“We’ve gone through the process of redeveloping the administration at City Hall,” Talt said.
In addition, Talt said this year he hopes to create a public safety commission, implement a historic preservation ordinance, better liaise with the San Marino Unified School District Board of Education, do something about the Lacy Park restrooms, review the city’s planning codes for their efficacy and get the ball rolling on strategic planning to achieve the city’s General Plan.

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