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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Zero Increase Forecast for City’s Revenues

• Council Discusses Budget Woes at Quarterly Meeting

BY BILL KOENEKER


The Malibu City Council was told at its special quarterly meeting last week, that while revenues are not declining, there is no growth in the revenue stream and that is something that must be looked at.
The message was delivered to the council by Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman, who was reviewing a second quarter fiscal year financial report with the council.
Members were also asked to pony up another $95,000 as an adjustment to expenditures for the current budget.
The administration and finance subcommittee, consisting of Mayor John Sibert and Councilmember Lou La Monte had previously recommended approval of the proposed budget amendment.
At the same time council members were talking about tightening their belts, Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich called on her colleagues “to start at the top,” and consider a voluntary cut of 25 percent of their $500 a month stipend..
The council also discussed the $9.5 million budget reserve.
La Monte said he learned after talking to former Councilmember Joan House, the target of an $8 million budget reserve was established when the city budget was $8 million.
“An $8 million reserve was equal to one year,” added La Monte, who said he found out other cities still maintain a reserve of 100 percent of their annual budget, including Calabasas and Westlake Village. “We should seriously consider increasing our reserve,” he said.
City Manager Jim Thorsen told council members, “We have a goal. We don’t have a policy [on a reserve fund],” he said.
Feldman explained that sometimes expenditures are going to exceed revenues.
Conley Ulich said she thought too much money was spent on personnel.
“We spend 30 percent of our budget on city personnel. The sheriff’s contract is 41 percent of our budget and that is mostly personnel. Are we spending 71 percent of our budget on personnel costs?” she asked.
Thorsen said that the sheriff’s budget is made up of many more items than personnel, including vehicles, infrastructure, and capital improvements.
Thorsen insisted the total costs of personnel including the sheriff’s contract was much less than 71 percent of the city’s budget.
“I'm glad to hear that," answered Conley Ulich.
Thorsen said he planned on a special session to go over a council work plan.
PIO Position Approved
After much debate, the council unanimously approved creating a media information officer position, who will be responsible for the management and development of city-wide communications and public relations efforts based on the needs identified by a city council ad hoc committee. The public information officer will report directly to the assistant city manager. The salary range is from $64,013 to $83,217 per year with full benefits.
Councilmember Laura Rosenthal explained the idea came out of the ad hoc committee she and La Monte are on.
“We wanted to discontinue the public relations contract and replace it. This is not extra spending since we already budgeted the $90,000 per year. We are bringing this in-house. It is a lot of work. We need somebody full time,” she said.
“I agree it needs somebody full-time,” said La Monte, who noted the city had been spending $96,000 per year for a public relations firm “that basically covered one topic for the city involving water quality.”
Conley Ulich said she wished a request for proposal had gone out for public relations firms to see what was offered to the city.
“I would have liked to have seen what our choices are. I don’t feel like the taxpayers should pay for this,” she added, pointing out current city policies delineate that the mayor and city council are the spokespersons for the city.
“What we are looking for is a professional,” said La Monte, “I am not a communications expert.”
“We need someone here. Somebody that lives and breathes Malibu,” agreed Rosenthal.
Council members briefly talked about the total costs that would potentially accompany the public relations post, then agreed upon it and subsequently unanimously approved creating and funding the position.

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