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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

City Council Members Wax Poetic over Budgetary Picture for FY 2013-2014

• Cost of Law Enforcement Generates Questions as Public Safety Issues Loom Larger for Many in Community

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council took its first look at the proposed 2013-14 fiscal year budget at a meeting this week.
The proposed document includes general fund revenues of $21.9 million and general fund expenditures of $21.88 million,” said Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman in her remarks to council members.
Feldman added another plus is the projected undesignated general fund by June 30, 2014 is expected to be $12 million. She added, “This amount exceeds the city’s goal of maintaining a minimum of 50% of the operating budget.”
The total projected general fund balance (including designated and undesignated reserves) on June 30, 2014, is $14 million, according to Feldman.
Council members were pleased to hear the city continues to experience growth in almost all tax revenue sources. Property tax revenue is projected to increase $325,000 to $7.2 million from the 2012-13 tax year.
Councilmember John Sibert said officials from other cities are amazed when they are told the income revenue from the acquisition of Legacy Park and other commercial buildings is paying the debt of that purchase. “When I describe this their jaws drop,” he said.
Feldman reminded Sibert and the other council members the income revenue not only pays to retire the debt service, but also covers the costs for the operation and maintenance of the park plus its water quality facilities
Sibert and Feldman were referring to the $1.4 million of rental income from three commercial properties and $400,000 of percentage rental income from the Malibu Lumber Yard site for a total of $1.8 million.
The assistant city manager informed council members  that the increase in revenues from various sources amounts to nearly a $1 million increase in revenue from the last fiscal year.
Special revenues total $8.1 million, including $5.7 million of grant funds for capital improvement projects. Gas tax revenue is projected at $405,000. Traffic safety revenue is expected to be $450,000. Proposition A revenue is $200,000 and Prop C revenue is projected at $160,000.
However, Councilmember Joan House wanted to know how much other cities are paying for public safety most notably the conract for law enforcement services.
City Manager Jim Thorsen said other cities such as Hidden Hills, Westlake Village and Calabasas are about half of what Malibu pays, $3 to $4 million, while Malibu pays $6.5 million. “We are paying about double or triple. Santa Monica pays $91 million,” Thorsen said.
Sibert noted it is something the city has been concerned about.
House also wanted to know about the new City Hall debt service. Feldman said it will be the first year the city will start to make payments for the debt service which will be about $1.7 million.
“We were paying $800,000 for rent. In about 10 years we will be paying the same amount as if we had decided to keep paying rent. Except now we will own the building,” Feldman added.
House also questioned the health costs of the city’s retirement package. Feldman answered health care costs have gone up across the board and it is not specific to the city.
Other council members praised Feldman and the proposed budget. Councilmember Laura Rosenthal said she was pleased to see the extra money for what she called the participation rent from the city-owned Lumber Yard stores.
Mayor Lou La Monte called the work on the proposed budget “a spectacular job”  and said he was grateful.
Councilmember Skylar Peak said he was impressed to see $1 million budgeted for a skate park.
The overall budget for public safety has increased $127,000 from the prior fiscal year due to a 2.4 percent increase in cost charged by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, according to the budget. The city continues to use what are known as COPS grant funding of $100,000 to supplement law enforcement activities.
The budget for administrative service has increased by $379, 000 due to the $489,000 for debt service for City Hall. “These increases are offset by a $222,000 decrease in Legacy Park operations and a $24,000 decrease in Finance,” Feldman wrote in her staff report.
The parks and recreation budget has decreased $65,000 mostly as a result of the closure of the skate park in 2011.
The budget for the environmental sustainability department has decreased a total of $271,000.
The reasons include a $273,000 reduction in building and safety because of the completion of a permit software project.
The planning department’s budget has increased a total of $193,000 due to a $176,000 increase in planning for a contract planner and consulting services to assist with long-range planning projects, code updates and conditional use permits and updates to the Housing Element, according to the assistant city manager.
The public works department has decreased a total of $46,000,
There is a total of $10.8 million of capital expenditures, $5.7 million is being funded from grants, $3.1 million from the Civic Center wastewater treatment facility CFD; $670,000 from special revenue funds and $1.3 million from the general fund capital improvements projects designated reserve fund.

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