No Council Decision Yet on Budget Commission

The City Council deadlocked last week on whether to form a budget advisory commission of local citizens, and will take the matter up anew at its meeting of Oct. 30.
A number of citizens have been pressing the council to form the citizens’ panel, so that local residents with background in finance and accounting may take a closer look at how much the city spends and in what areas, in the hope of making suggestions about belt-tightening measures.
Mayor Eugene Sun and Councilman Richard Ward were all for it last week, but Dennis Kneier and Dr. Richard Sun favored a proposal by City Manager John Schaefer to engage the community in a series of budget meetings in the first half of next year.
With Vice Mayor Dr. Allan Yung absent, the council deadlocked 2-2 on Kneier’s motion to implement Schaefer’s proposal and hold off on forming the commission until June. Eugene Sun, however, noted that Yung has been in favor of the advisory group in the past, so he continued the matter until Oct. 30 in hopes of getting a 3-2 vote at that time. The meeting will be held at 8 a.m. at City Hall.
Schaefer’s plan calls for a community meeting on Jan. 20 to provide an introduction to the city’s budgeting process, then, over the next nine City Council meetings, reviews of the operations of various departments, with the public invited to weigh in at each step. The final fiscal-year budget would be approved by the council in June, as it typically is.
“Let’s see how it goes and review this in June,” Kneier said of the proposal. “Did we meet our objectives in getting information out there and providing scrutiny of our budget process? If we don’t, we can form the commission.”
In its efforts to convert the medians of Huntington Drive and Sierra Madre Boulevard to water-wise landscapes, the city is not lacking for streams of money to pay for the work.
A staff report at last week’s council meeting revealed that the city saved more than $9,000 on its water bill in the month of July alone after it shut off the sprinklers on the two streets’ medians. Also, it took in $2,000 in fines from water wasters over the first 2½ months of Stage 2 water restrictions in the city.
This made it easier for the council to appropriate $6,000 for design work to convert the two northernmost medians of Sierra Madre Boulevard to drought-tolerant landscapes. The city received approval for $38,688 for the work through the SoCal Water Smart Turf Removal Rebate Program.
The project, which involves tearing out lawn, modifying the existing irrigation system and planting a water-wise landscape on 19,344 square feet of median, is expected to serve as a guide for future median conversions in the city.

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