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Council to begin budget review

Hiring freeze to remain in place.

June 17, 2010|By Megan O'Neil

La Cañada Flintridge expects to retain its financial footing in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, according to a preliminary 2010-11 budget report released this week.

The City Council begins today its annual budget review, a multiphase process during which council members and staff assess all revenue and expenditures.

Officials said they are anticipating few surprises. General Fund revenues for 2010-11 are projected at $10.62 million, a 1.1% increase from this year. The preliminary budget does not include funding for new programming or staffing. And an ongoing hiring freeze means several unfilled positions will remain vacant.

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"This is sort of a status-quo budget," said Daniel Jordan, the city's director of finance. "It's not ambitious in any new programs; we just don't have the money for it this year."

Nevertheless, La Cañada is in better shape than many other local municipalities, Mayor Don Voss said, adding that the city has avoided drastic cuts to services.

"We have not been able to do everything we hoped to do over the last two years because of the California budget crisis," Voss said. "But we have always been able to balance the budget."

Personnel costs are projected at $3.47 million, about 33% of the total General Fund operating budget. Other line-item expenses in the preliminary budget include $90,000 for state and federal lobbying services, $360,000 for tree trimming and $95,000 for contracted traffic engineering services.

Council members must consider more than $4.6 million in proposed capital projects and requests, City Manager Mark Alexander wrote in a summary of the budget, but have just $472,700 to dole out.

"Once again, the City Council will be faced with some difficult decisions on how to prioritize and best allocate the remaining available financial resources," Alexander said.

Among the council consideration items are $190,550 in requests from community groups, among them the One City One Book Committee, La Cañada Valley Beautiful, the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge, the La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Assn. and the Lanterman Historical Museum Foundation.

"It is significant," Jordan said of the funding extended to community groups. "There is no question about it. We are fortunate to be in a city that has the means to even consider doing this kind of thing, because a lot don't."

The preliminary budget does not include funds set aside for unanticipated disaster costs, Alexander said. However, the city will continue with its long-standing policy of maintaining a minimum reserve of 100% of its annual operating budget, which can be used in an emergency.

"Overall, the city retains its solid financial position largely because of its lack of reliance upon significantly fluctuating revenue sources as well as a reserve fund that has been protected by city councils over the years," Alexander said.

Budget review hearings begin at 8:30 a.m. today.

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