Well Ahead of Deadline, City Adopts $33 Million Budget

With a unanimous vote last week, San Marino entered June with a fully adopted 2019-20 fiscal year budget, precisely a month ahead of schedule.
When the new fiscal year begins on July 1, the city aims to spend $33,057,856 on operational and capital costs, with an income of $31,681,165; to bridge revenue gaps, as with the Public Safety Parcel Tax for example, there are $10,626,050 of in-and-out transfers planned. The approved numbers reflect a series of last-minute cuts made at the meeting on Friday, May 31.
“It is really wonderful to have an adopted budget at this point of the year,” said City Manager Marcella Marlowe, reflecting on last year’s budget process that was extended by two months amid major overhauls performed by a relatively new staff and City Council.
Changes made Friday include, for the city manager’s office, reducing contingency funds to $20,000, printing to $1,100 and travel for meetings to $10,000; for the Finance Department, reducing travel for meetings to $3,000; for the Police Department, reducing travel for meetings to $8,000; for the Parks and Public Works Department, reducing materials and supplies to $100,000 for the street division and $8,500 for the grounds division; and reducing the citywide IT replacement under the capital budget to $60,000.
The reduction, totaling $90,934 in cuts, brought the expenditures down from $33,148,790 going into Friday’s meeting. A decision by the City Council, in a prior discussion item, to not increase the parcel tax levy for the forthcoming fiscal year resulted in reducing the revenues from an initially proposed $31,845,165.
Marlowe noted at the beginning of the meeting that all increases year to year were due to two reasons, primarily mandatory pay raises or increases for salaries and benefits and the like. Other increases were directly tied to priority initiatives, which are projects or expenditures chosen by the council aimed at maintaining or improving San Marino’s quality of life and municipal services.
One of the priority initiatives proved to be cause for debate Friday, with the council ultimately voting to keep the change of increasing the Police Department’s budget to reflect a staff of 30 officers, as opposed to the current 28.
Councilman Ken Ude, who was alone in opposing the increase, questioned the wisdom of adding department personnel, proposed as a temporary method to help the department through a wave of departures and new hires.
“I think we can challenge the department to find other ways to get to full staffing that don’t involve budgeting for 30 officers,” Ude said.
The increase was based on the past five years of departures from the department, averaging two a year. Replacing an officer can take up to 18 months, Police Chief John Incontro explained, adding that he attempts to front-load quality hires now so that after a certain point, the department is better situated to handle a departure and replacement hire.
“If we are at a static position where we have personnel, then we will not need to do this,” he said.
“There are a lot of things going on and this just gives us a cushion for a couple of years to get through it,” Marlowe added.

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