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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

City Budget Calls for Department Cutbacks and Reduced Services

• No Funding Now for Skatepark and Four Other Projects But More Revenue Might Be Raised


The Malibu City Council got its first look at the proposed budget for fiscal year 2012-2013 at its budget workshop last Wednesday night.
The proposed general fund budget totals $20.6 million in revenues and $20.5 million in expenses.
After a brief tutorial about the budget process, Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman told council members that more belt tightening is called for in the upcoming budget.
“Every department cut back. There was a bit of belt tightening,” she said, “The proposed budget has been developed extremely conservatively with an emphasis on streamlining services in order to reduce costs.”
Almost $7 million in funding for five upcoming projects are not included in the proposed budget, according to Feldman, who acknowledged that funding could be allocated during the year as more revenues come in.
Feldman did not mention what the projects are, but did list them in her staff report.
They include $1 million for skatepark construction, $500,000 for the Kanan arrestor bed, $2 million for the projects included in the settlement agreement with the Natural Resources Defense Council and over $3.3 million in wastewater treatment studies including ground water feasibility and an Environmental Impact Report and final design.
Planning Commissioner John Mazza, during public comment, said the council should consider dropping the summer beach patrol.
“To pay $428,000 to patrol somebody else’s property. You would not pay that for my private property,” said Mazza.
He also raised the issue that it is important for the city to look at post employment costs of its personnel. “These are fictitious numbers you are currently using. There should be participation by employees.”
Chamber of Commerce head Don Schmitz talked to the council about how the city should take a bigger lead in the problems of the water district and the need for hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements.
“There are $150 million worth of improvements needed in the City of Malibu. There is currently a de facto moratorium, the city is doing nothing. Sure, city officials keep citing the obvious, ‘We have a problem.’ But this is going at a glacial pace. You need a full time position in public works,” he said.
Incoming Councilmember Joan House said she had reservations about halting funding for the beach team.
“The gangs were coming to the beach. We turned it back from a gang beach to a family beach. Let’s keep it the way it is. I would not want to change funding the beach team,” she said.
“I completely agree we should not be paying for the beach team,” said Councilmember Lou La Monte. “We talked about this on Friday. Disbanding the beach team is a bad idea.” The rest of the council concurred.
Councilmember John Sibert said he is also concerned about the post-retirement costs for the city. “But it is one issue we have not ignored,” he said.
Sibert said city officials have been “hammering on Zev” about the city paying the costs of the beach team for several years. “I don’t think we can afford to toss it,” he said.
City Manager Jim Thorsen said the beach team has been very aggressive in issuing citations for violations and citations are generating revenue for the city. “It is not quite breaking even, but coming close,” he said.
Councilmember Skylar Peak said he has been on Zuma Beach for many years as a lifeguard and also a trainer. “The sheriff provides us one of the safest beaches in Los Angeles County. Let’s keep it that way. But it is a county beach. The community has a lot of frustration. [The beach team] should not go,” he said.
Peak also mentioned considering free usage of the joint-use pool at the high school.
Mayor Laura Rosenthal said the beach team also provides traffic control during the busy summer months.
The mayor said she wanted to get consensus on a couple of line items in the budget. After some discussion, the rest of the council agreed to have the staff study the items and bring them back with a price tag.
The mayor said she wants to add more street cleaning during the summer time. “It could cost around $9000,” she said.
Rosenthal also said she wants to experiment and allow the seniors free use of the community pool at the high school. “I want to see if we can increase participation,” she said.
During Feldman’s discussion about the proposed budget she reported on where the city gets its income.
 One of the city’s major revenue sources, property taxes, are projected to increase $100,000 to $6,850,000 from the 2011-2012 budgeted amount.
Sales tax is expected to increase $175,000 from the previous fiscal year’s budget.
The transient occupancy tax is expected to maintain a steady course of revenue showing no decline.
Feldman, in her staff report, indicated the budget for many service categories are planned to show decreases.
The overall budget for management services has decreased from the prior fiscal year from $2.6 million to $1.8 million.
Feldman wrote that the completion of certain professional services agreements in the city manager’s budget and a decrease in litigation expenses in the legal counsel budget account for the majority of the decrease.
The overall public safety budget has decreased a net total of $38,000 from the prior fiscal year.
The overall budget for administrative services has decreased from $7.3 million to $6.7 million.
Several vacant positions are not being funded for the upcoming fiscal year amounting to nearly $400,000 in savings.
Feldman said the proposed budget provides for 60 full-time employees and part-time employees and student interns amounting to the total of 75 full-time equivalent employees.
The annual cost of living increases will kick in for the staff this year, derived from the consumer price index which was 2.1 percent and is included in the proposed budget.
Post-employment benefits include $251,000 for retired employees. The same amount has been included in the last two fiscal years, according to Feldman.
“The city’s annual ongoing expenses for other post-employment benefits will be approximately $275,000 a year, which includes approximately $200,000 to remain current for retiree benefits for existing employees and $75,000 toward accrued liability of $1 million,” the assistant city manager explained.

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