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Council approves $785M budget

Gordon is the lone dissenting vote again, in part because of utility hikes.

June 23, 2010|By Christopher Cadelago, christopher.cadelago@latimes.com

CITY HALL — The City Council Tuesday adopted a $785.2-million budget for the coming fiscal year, avoiding considerable cuts to programs and services, but drawing criticism for hiking rates and fees amid a protracted recession.

Councilman David Gordon was the sole dissenter in the 4-1 vote, arguing that the budget — including the $145-million General Fund that pays for most public services — relied too heavily on one-time expenditures to cover recurring costs. Gordon, who has never voted in favor of a city budget in his four years on the council, called on colleagues to rescind all utility rate hikes due to the "crushing economic impacts hitting our residents and small businesses."

The budgeting process began last month with proposals to freeze vacant positions, cut public services and raise service rates to bridge a $5.8-million projected shortfall.

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Councilman Dave Golonski said officials have worked months to lessen the blow of proposed cuts to police, fire, parks and library services. In that time, the council has elected to use a patchwork of rainy-day funds to prevent hiring freezes and program cuts.

"It was a difficult budget year, one of the most difficult we ever faced," Golonski said. "And, overall, I think we were successful at mitigating cuts to services while maintaining programs."

The budget relied on $1.44 million from a rainy-day fund and another $1.25 million in police and library money to bridge the anticipated gap, allowing fire officials to avoid enacting a temporary two-month station closure and freezing three firefighter positions.

The Central and Buena Vista libraries will also be open until 9 p.m. rather than the proposed 8 p.m.

The council also opted to preserve hours at the animal shelter by funding one animal control officer and staffing the kennel attendant for six months. They also agreed to fund park patrol, two police cadet positions and a probation officer. And while the $1.1-million joint helicopter program was funded for the year, the number of school resource officers was trimmed from five to three.

Although the vote represented the first time the city tapped its rainy-day fund to begin the year, the council was able to keep roughly $1.17 million in the account, officials said.

"In years past there might have been ways to argue that a program should have been saved," Golonski said. "This year the only way to argue for not cutting one program is to recommend cutting another."

Councilman Gary Bric maintained that his colleagues went too far to preserve library and animal shelter hours, arguing that it was unwise to commit funding for next year when figures from the final months of this fiscal year had yet to be tallied.

Gordon turned his attention to the fire department's budget, which came after the firefighter union agreed to a recalibrated overtime calculation.

"I do not think it's essential at this time to commit [$437,000] in non-recurring funds to restore a few firefighter positions to bolster engine crews from three to four," Gordon said. "Pasadena's just-passed new budget included $725,000 savings by cutting one four-person fire ladder company."

The new budget also includes a number of fee hikes, including for parking citations, animal adoptions and vehicle impounds. Water and electricity rates were also raised by 13.5% and 2.9%, respectively. Trash and sewer rates were also raised.

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