City Takes First Look at Expenses for Next Fiscal Year

The San Marino City Council, at a special meeting last week, took an initial dive into next year’s budget, exploring several tentative departmental expenditures that so far net out to around $25.5 million against $28.3 million in expected revenues.
The first of three such meetings specifically looked at the “big picture” changes to the proposed expenditures of several departments, in addition to highlighting their accomplishments for the current fiscal year and goals for the upcoming year. Budgets that were examined included those for the City Council, city attorney, city manager, the Old Mill, Human Resources Department, Finance Department, Crowell Public Library, Recreation Department and non-departmental expenses.
This approach represents yet another wholesale change to how the city has approached budgeting in recent years, as City Manager Marcella Marlowe explained, and is born of last year’s process that surgically analyzed departments by line item to satisfy the demands of a largely new City Council that was elected to finally get a grasp on San Marino’s expenditures. From here on out, Marlowe said, the hope is to be able to take “baby steps” to make gradual tweaks year by year instead of hitting the reset button again.
“Obviously that leads to some challenges for council, for staff and, I’m sure, for the community,” she said. “It’s not ideal. We are very excited about the process that we’re bringing you this year.”
Projections were based on five-year forecasts made in February and on this year’s numbers, but will be updated by the time the City Council takes up final adoption in May to account for most of the current fiscal year’s patterns. Some large departmental items have yet to be paid out, which to the untrained eye would make a department look significantly under budget at the moment.
Human Resources is facing a substantial increase in its services and supplies budget in the year that begins July 1, thanks largely to a $188,255 increase in the city’s general liability insurance contribution and a litany of four-figure bumps in other insurance programs. General liability, which is through the joint powers insurance authority to which San Marino is party, increases or decreases based on past claims, and the other areas are generally outside the city’s control.
There also is a projected $42,000 increase to the payout to the city’s legal representative based on pending litigation during the upcoming year.
Non-departmental expenditures also appear on paper to have significantly grown, but this is because the city plans to consolidate retiree medical costs into this category. (There was a corresponding $200,000 decrease in the Human Resources personnel budget to account for this transfer.)
Additionally, some departments — Human Resources and Finance, in particular — appear to be under budget this year in personnel because they currently have interim personnel running them; those expenses are anticipated to return to their projected numbers next year, with full-time department heads in place.
Most other departments have personnel expenditure increases thanks to unfunded pension liability payments and required pay increases for employees — both of which are governed by Sacramento.
Marlowe pointed out that Recreation, whose future remains up in the air as the city seeks to hire a community services director who will be tasked with revamping the department, will have a “maintain” budget, which means it mostly carries over except for required pay raises and pension costs.
“I know this will be immensely frustrating to all of you. It is frustrating to us as well,” she said, addressing desires to scale back that department’s costs. “We are on track to have a new director in place, hopefully in a couple of months. When that person comes on board, one of the first things they’re going to have to do after they develop a vision for the department is develop a budget.”
The meeting was held on Wednesday, March 20, after The Outlook’s press deadline for last week’s edition; a second meeting, scheduled for Wednesday this week, also took place after the newspaper’s deadline and will be reviewed in next week’s edition.
The full reports for each department and their proposed expenditure changes are detailed in the agenda for these meetings, which can be accessed on the city’s website.

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