Open Forum: What would you cut?

Many of our cities are facing budget cuts. So, here’s an uplifting weekend question:

If you were in charge, what would be the first thing that you would cut out of your city’s budget?

  • Anonymous

    I would cut off Ernie Gutierrez from all bars

  • Anonymous

    Car allowances and phone allowances given to city council members. Oh, but wait, I would be in charge, so that would mean I would have to pay for gas myself. Nevermind.

  • Love my city

    I would cut out all the public notices my city puts in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune a 50+ year no bid contract? I would have to believe they could be posted for free on the web.I also would cut all other”ads” that are placed in all newspapers

  • Resident

    Ditto the car and phone allowances for council members. I would also cut car allowances for city employees. The staff is paid enough to be able to provide their own transportation to and from work. If they choose to move to Rancho Cucamonga, why should we foot the gas bill? Cut out any city provided food prior to council meetings and the bottled water.

  • gilman

    Any participation in the California League of Cities….no yearly dues, no going to their variety of conferences (junkets) on taxpayer dollars, no use of their for profit “investment” services, etc, no contribution to their “political action” funds or lobbying efforts, etc.

    Oh, and elimination of the travel budget for employees and Council……minor local meetings would be ok, but stop paying for trips to China, Paris, Mexico, etc.

  • Anonymous

    newspaper subscribtions

  • SGV Resident

    The MTA board should use public transportation to attend meetings. No mileage allowance for personal vehicles.

  • Anonymous

    The first step might be to prioritize between crtical spending needs versus less critical spending needs. To me critical spending needs are those basic services that people expect: police, fire, street maintenance, water, sewer etc. Less critical spending would be things like community events or certain park activities.

  • Resident

    Cities should cut out gas, telephone and car rentals for city and assistant city managers. They already make way too much money as it is.They don’t need to go to conferences either. They party more than the councilmembers. As far as for councilmembers, travel money use for conferences should be cut. All they do is get drunk, party with other elected officials and don’t bother to attend the meetings couses. This becomes a junkted. They need to attend meetingas held in California.

  • Concerned Resident

    It’s time to take a long hard look at community priorities. Perhaps it’s time to cut back on some recreation programs, senior excursions (God forbid we cut something related to seniors since they seem to be the only ones who vote), overtime for public safety, guaranteed COLA’s for employees, review every contract that has been in place for at least 3 years, and staffing of non-essential things such as school resource officers or farmer’s markets.

    You can cut all the travel and telephone reimbursements that you want, but our SGV cities have budgets between $15 and $40 million (roughly) and eliminating $4,000 in telephone reimbursement or $20k in travel might make you feel good, but it’s not going to solve the real budget deficits that cities are facing! The only long-term solution is to eliminate programs or seriously cut them back.

  • Resident

    Concerned Resident: I think you should run for office. Your priorities (as hard as it might be for many communities to swallow) seems right on the mark. If and when economic times improve maybe then cities can think about recreation and senior programs. City employees should expect COLA freezes. And yes, I agree. While cutting City Council perks does make everyone feel good (the old let’s stick to the politician’s sentiment), those kinds of cuts would only amount to symbolic, feel-good window dressing.

    I don’t know how everyone else feels but I’ve also thought that Proposition 218 has its backwards. Prop 218 requires a 2/3 vote for special taxes and a simple majority vote for general tax. Shouldn’t it be the other way around. Shouldn’t it be harder to levy general taxs (money that can be used for any purpose which usually means money that’s more likely to be mis-spent). Shouldn’t special taxes be easier to approve since those revenues must be spent on specifically designated items and that are better subject expenditure oversight. I’m just throwing in my 2 cents on that issue.

  • Anonymous

    Wow. The last two comments were probably the most lucid, well thought out and grounded in realistic factors I’ve ever read on thos blog.

    How happy would I be if it were our trib reporters that contributed them. Doubtful though.

    Anyway, great points on directly on the money, pun intended.

  • South El Monte Resident

    Senior trips are well deserved by thr senior population in general. They do pay a fee. It helps with the cost of the driver, gas and bus. It is the least you can do for the seniors of our cities. Recreation programs are essentail for the youth as well. It keeps them out off the streets and away from negative youth that is on risk. We need to provide safe havens and positive community centers for our youth and seniors alike. Employees do get the cost of living, COLA, depending on a cities over all budget.
    All this depends on the ability and leadership of a city council, mayor, finance director/treasurer and managers, to help balance a healthy and financially sound city budget. You can have your cake and eat it too, but in moderation!!!

  • gilman

    While I appreciate the thoughtful comments made regarding the elimination of certain programs, I would have to disagree. I agree that the real problem is priorities and how to go about spending.

    Local agency spending is generally out of control. Sure cutting back a few special programs for seniors may seem like a cost saving, but what about the bigger problem. Look at the costs associated with the administration of city hall – generally most local agencies have increase their payroll and associated exspenses by close to 50% over just the last few years….this usually equals millions in added spending. Then look at the myriad of special consultants and professional contracts given out…again, millions. Then look at travel expenses for the council and general city staff…not a mere $20,000, instead most cities are spending hundreds of thousands for trips, “educational” trips/conferences, etc.

    As for Prop 218, it may not be perfect but without it we would really be screwed. Local politicians would simply tax us to solve their poor spending decisions. The more power we have over their ability to tax us, the better.

  • Resident of SEM

    One must meet the growing needs of the residents of a community. Starting with sheriff, fire, infrastructure of streets, sidewalks, curbs and gutters. Vital services and programs that benefit a diverse community must also remain in tact. As long as a well balanced budget exists. Anything is possible. Once a city council starts to over spend, there problems arise and kaos begins. The people need to be reassured that they can count on an elected body to look after “their best interest.” Money plays a vital part in the day to day operations at city hall. Without proper departamental budgetting, taking from Peter to give to Paul makes a situation worse. We can only hope and pray that those that we put into office will be wise in the manner in which they spend the peoples money. We don’t need nor want any more taxation passed on to us. We are trying to make ends meet as the state of the econimy becomes a living nightmare for all us.

  • Were all residents someplace

    If you truly study any given City budget, Public Safety is the number one expense. No one wants to cut Public Safety… but ask yourself this question; why do we have to have so much expense for our Public Safety???

    Could it boil down to the fact our State like many other States are weak, and don’t stick it to those costing cities? I’m talking about criminals, people in jail etc. Do you know how much taxpayers dollars are wasted on these guys??? A lot! If our punishments were more aggressive and we would not tolerate so many people, then maybe we would have a fighting chance. But of course you know the ole saying “you get what you tolerate”… so lets cut programs for those who are abiding the law or might possibly help prevent a youth from becoming a criminal????

  • SGV resident

    We should start by determining what in our budget is a “need” and what items are “wants”. The “want” part of the budget is where the cuts begin. If youth programs get a 20% cut, why should a senior program be immune from the same 20% cut? Tell the dept. heads how much the programs will be cut, and let them get together with their employees and users and let them determine what is important.

  • Anonymous

    At the risk of soliciting a chorus of angry senior responses, I must say that as a group seniors tend to be better off than most non-retired working age folks. Seniors though they are on fixed incomes, usually have a lifetimes worth of savings and investments accumulated, they usually have completely paid housing mortgages, they are usually are free of the responsbility of paying for children and they also enjoy many discounts that non-seniors do not enjoy. I don’t say this to say that all of this is undeserved, but clearly seniors (as a group) might be in a better position than others to absorb cutbacks in senior programs.

  • SGV resident

    To Anonymous:
    I am a senior….and I agree. You forgot that many of us have homes still covered by Proposition 13. When my children were growing up, I paid for child care. I didn’t expect the city to provide day care through parks and recreation. Now I’m old, and I do not expect the city to provide day care for me and my spouse.

  • Anonymous

    Dear gilman: I am not advocating the elimination of Proposition 218. Rathter, I am advocating it’s improvement so that it can truly become an instrument for fiscally responsible and resposive government. At present Proposition 218 seems to be nothing more than an instrument of inaction – which may have been the true hidden intent of its drafters. Should government get the permission of the people before it taxes them? ABSOLUTELY. Nevertheless, the Proposition could be improved by making it harder to procure “general revenue” funds and easier to to procure “specially earmarked funds.” That’s all I am proposing. Specially earmarked funds are funds that can (depending on how you structure the measure) be designed for specifically identified VOTER-APPROVED community needs (e.g. to pave roads, to fix sewers, to pay for fire equipment etc). By switching the approval requirements, I think you will get better fiscal stability along with greater fiscal accountability. It seems to me that the drafters of Proposition 218 (the Howard Jarvis group) weren’t so much concerned about the “will of the voters” so much as they wanted a law that would serve their basic philosphical opposition to taxation of any sort under any circumstances.

  • thejay

    Public safety must be cut, especially Fire Department costs. Police need to take a cut also, but they have more day to day value than Fire Departments. The cities that have money now don’t have Fire and Police to support and the cities that are broke have a strong Fire union.

    As a tax payer, I’d rather have the Council buy the City Manager a BMW and cut the Fire Department by 1/3 than I would take the CM’s car allowance.

    The other cut that I’d like to see is 1/2 of all street lights turned off. This would take legislation to prohibit legal claims, but it would save a bunch.

  • Anonymous

    Hey thejay: Interesting idea on the stret lights. I assume you would keep them on for major thoroughfaires. Small residential streets on the otherhand may not need them quite as much epscially since may folks have light of their own. The benefit of turning off some of these street lights might be that we can actually see all of the stars at night again and cut back on rampant light pollution.

  • Yankee Bravo

    I agree on the streetlights. We’re figuratively throwing our money into the sky with all the lighting that goes up where it is not needed rather than down where it is.

    I also think 218 has it backwards. It should be easier to pass a special purpose tax than a general purpose tax. In either case, a majority vote of the people should be sufficient.

    And I rather like the idea of no mileage allowance for MTA board members. They’re in charge of MTA; they should be able to get to the meetings using the same public transit they govern. If it’s not good enough for them, it’s not good for us, either.

  • Concerned Valley Resident

    Seniors help subsidize their excursions by joining clubs at their senior centers.They in turn pay for the ticket, meal and transportation. They are still productive and take seriously their responsibilty of not becoming a burden on a city. You got to give them credit. They manage on their own. As far as giving a city manager a BMW, I seriously don’t think so. They can lease one and write it off, including the gas and car insurance. What a sweet deal.They know how to work the system. Sheriff and Fire are a absolute need in a city. As the population grows, both residental and workers that come into a city ,so does the need for more law enforcement patrolling and services. A community must continue to be safe for all that live and work in it on a daily bases. Criminals, parolees, gangsters and sex offenders can not and must not be allowed to run a muck! City lights protect people from vandals and would be robbers. Many cars are broken into as are homes. Try going down a dark street with no light at all. Unsafe and scary. Wouldn’t want to run over someones pet or a human being.

  • gilman

    For what it is worth, most streetlighting is not paid for out of the general budget. Instead, affected property owners are the folks picking up that tab via property assessments/taxes. In most local cities, cutting out the lighting would equal no savings to the cities.

    Thejay pretty well covers the real cost….police, fire and administrative costs.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure EVERY or even MOST cities have Landscaping and Lighting Districts. That may not be correct.

  • Anonymous

    Some un-incorporated pockets are handeled by the county. They look the worst and are hardly ever attended to.

    Street lights (lamp posts) are paid directly through property taxes. It is up to us to report a burned out light or hanging electrical wires. It is well worth my paying whatever. Safety first, for mine and the neighborhood.

    Administrative costs are always high. Someone has to do the work in the daily operation of a city. Even the high cost of gas, electricity and everything else that we pay as consumers are the same for cities. We all pay in the end.

  • nun ovyabusness

    I would start with the mayor and lower his pay. He loves El Monte so much then he can work for less money. That includes anyone in council. Especially the red headed lady. The one that has the need to be putting in her two cents for everything El Monte. The super annoying one, you know how I mean. The cops are another cost that should be lowered. Why do they get paid so much? To buy more bullets to shoot them selves on the leg? There are so many things to use the money in a usefull way. By the way why doesn’t anyone complain about the massage parlor on Valley Bld. Unbelievable! Do we not know what goes on in there? HELLO!!!! We are letting El Monte turn into MONTEREY PARK? WHY?????

  • nun ovyabusness

    I would start with the mayor and lower his pay. He loves El Monte so much then he can work for less money. That includes anyone in council. Especially the red headed lady. The one that has the need to be putting in her two cents for everything El Monte. The super annoying one, you know how I mean. The cops are another cost that should be lowered. Why do they get paid so much? To buy more bullets to shoot them selves on the leg? There are so many things to use the money in a usefull way. By the way why doesn’t anyone complain about the massage parlor on Valley Bld. Unbelievable! Do we not know what goes on in there? HELLO!!!! We are letting El Monte turn into MONTEREY PARK? WHY?????

  • Anonymous

    The biggest problem is choking burden of Public Safety with their out of control spending. In the guise of always rising crime, we are duped into constantly saying yes to everything that is proposed by Police and Fire. Contracts and finances are secretive and inaccessible to the public. Cities like El Monte who are near bankruptcy are an example of what can happen when a law enforcement agency becomes involved politically. The mayor and council are either indebted for the police unions support, or in fear of their retaliation. Product of this situation is the arrogant 6% cut proposed by new Chief Armstrong when the City had announced that it would cut 15% across the board.

    To further tighten the stranglehold on the community, one of the negotiators selected to work on behalf of the taxpayers with the police union stood to gain by the award of higher salaries and benefits, this being the then Assistant Police Chief. You see, Police management automatically moves up in pay by a certain percentage to keep a distance in salaries from that of the rank and file this is not true of the rest of city employees. The exception to this practice is the City Attorney who drafts and recommends these contracts to the council and whose salary is tied to that of the Chief of Police. Although it was known for at least four years that El Monte was in a serious financial situation, a lucrative four year contract was signed by the council with the Police Union and shortly after that action, it was announced that the city was in a morbid financial condition. In contrast, the various employee groups, other than public safety, have been kept well below the median in salaries, short staffed with greatly burdening responsibilities that have added to a less than adequate service to the public it serves. With ill advised new taxes by the city, the additional burdens of the local elementary and high school districts bonds, Mt. SAC bond and whatever the State and Feds will place on citizens, how can communities survive? What has happened to ethics, courage and morality? Folks, it has been replaced by unbridled greed.

    You think this only happens in this community? No way! If your city is not paying these exorbitant salaries now, remember that the Chief and staffs new salaries will be used as a standard during the next negotiations by your own department. Will this buy us more security? Absolutely not!

  • EM resident

    If that was a campaign speech, you’ve got my vote. Where do I sign up to help get you elected.

  • anon

    What they should cut out are the elected officials from this city council. With all of the gang violence plaguing this city, it is no wonder these fearless leaders are concerned about themselves. This city is violent and dangerous and I would not be caught dead driving or visiting this city. If you people really care about the community, then show some real leadership by bring jobs or businesses back.