San Marino Proposes Balanced Budget for New Fiscal Year

Factoring in all major expenses and cost consolidations, the proposed budget for San Marino’s forthcoming fiscal year seems to be on the right course, with not only a balanced sheet but also the hopeful boost to the reserve fund balance.
As presented at a special City Council meeting on May 12, the city projects to spend around $29.3 million on personnel, services and supplies, equipment and capital improvement projects in the 2017-18 fiscal year, which begins July 1. It plans to do this on $29.4 million in expenditures, of which interim City Manager Cindy Collins anticipates placing about $81,000 in fund balance reserves when all is said and done.
“A lot has been done this year to give the city a foundation to work off of,” Collins said at the meeting.
Perhaps the most visible of those steps is the reorganization to streamline city department communications with City Hall. An administrative services department will employ a director, who will directly manage two human resources employees and two accounting employees and report directly to the city manager.
This department will support the city’s other departments and focus on accounting and HR duties to improve performance and manage costs moving forward, Collins explained. The administrative services director replaces the former assistant city manager and the department also will absorb the responsibilities of the prior finance director.
Collins explained that the city also adopted a “zero-based budgeting” philosophy this year, specifically on services and supplies, in an effort to clear the slate and look at those two items without hinging their proposed budgets on previous years. This resulted in trimming $268,711 thanks to moving some contract services in-house and adjusting budgets for some programs (aquatics and passports, for example) based on more recent service demand.
Overall, the proposed operating budget ($24.4 million of the total expenditures) amounts to a 1% increase from the current year.
Another foundational step is the $3.94 million capital improvement plan, which was prepared by Parks and Public Works Director/City Engineer Dan Wall. More than half of that ($2 million) is dedicated to helping eliminate the maintenance backlog of street work in the city and Wall said he aims to have the city average a pavement condition index of 80 within the 10 years.
Wall also is planning to use $265,000 for continuing “Band-Aid” maintenance and master plan development for the sewer and storm drain system; $250,000 for addressing trip hazard and Americans With Disabilities Act compliance on city sidewalks; $463,000 to address building and facility maintenance (some of which is carried over from money appropriated this year); and $964,000 for the renovation of the Rose Arbor (which is expected to be funded mostly, if not entirely, by donation) and Lacy Park irrigation and storage yard fencing.
The City Manager’s Office/Administrative Services Department is projecting a $2.75 million budget, split roughly by personnel costs and the costs of services and supplies. The department plans to fill each of the newly created positions early into the fiscal year, as well as hire the permanent replacement for Collins (who has worked on an interim basis since July).
An ad hoc committee also is being formed to develop a long-range financial plan to address the city’s unfunded pension liability and its growing infrastructure maintenance backlog. In a potential cost-cutting move, it also is planning to solicit bids for an information technology contractor.
The Planning and Building Department is proposing a $1.17 million budget and plans to develop ordinances for historic preservation and wireless telecommunications in the coming year, as well as hire a code compliance coordinator and upgrade its business license software.
The Police Department aims to fill its four police officer vacancies, increase community meetings by 10%, develop a volunteer program and reduce violent and property crimes by 5% this year and has proposed a $6.86 million budget.
The Fire Department is proposing a $6.22 million budget and is contributing around $775,000 to the overall capital outlay budget with its request for a new primary fire engine to replace the current 10-year-old engine. The current front line engine spent 150 days in this current fiscal year out of service and fire engines are recommended to be replaced every decade.
The Parks and Public Works Department is asking for $3.41 million for its operating budget for the year and plans to contain its expenses by ending some contracts for services and having those services performed in-house.
The Recreation Department is asking for $2.22 million for this coming year and lists among its goals to exceed the 70% cost recovery directive and expanding senior citizen programming.
The Library Department is requesting $1.58 million for its budget, with goals of installing a radio frequency identification inventory tracking system, hosting a 10-year anniversary celebration and painting the exterior of the library.
The Emergency Management Department is asking for $77,000 for the year and plans to conduct an emergency operations center needs assessment, acquire a new set of portable emergency radios and improve current emergency plans.
Of the $29.4 million in projected revenue, 62% of that — $18.1 million — is expected to come from property taxes, which Collins said is a 6% increase from last year’s collections.
“As you all know, property tax is the primary revenue source for the city,” said Misty Cheng, the contract finance director for the current fiscal year. “We’re adding to our fund balance, so this is a very positive thing. The budget is balanced.”
The budget also includes $1.4 million to be paid toward the city’s pension liability. Collins made a point to note that, throughout the budget, there were allocations for contract services and capital improvement projects that are based on high estimates of cost and could, theoretically, come in under budget depending on the bidding process.
Collins also pointed out that the current reserve fund balance sits at more than $24 million despite that amount being as low as $14 million 10 years ago after the city invested heavily in the construction of Crowell Public Library and also the purchase of the Stoneman Center from San Marino Unified School District.

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