Leftovers from City Hall: Tough times ahead in El Monte

Leftovers from City Hall:
Tough times ahead in El Monte

Wow. Things keep getting worse when it comes to the budget situation in El Monte.

Rebecca Kimitch reported that El Monte laid off 17 police officers, and it is still projecting a $2.5 million shortfall.

Now city officials are considering placing an initiative to increase property taxes to support fire and paramedic services. Yes, this comes right after voters approved a half-cent sales tax, which goes into effect on April 1.

So where is all the money going in El Monte? One place is retirement.

In a survey of 25 cities in the San Gabriel Valley, El Monte’s annual pension costs in 2007-08 was $12 million, which is the highest out of all cities surveyed, according to city finance records. The next highest annual pension cost was in West Covina, which spent $9 million. And because the statewide CalPERS pension fund lost a quarter of its value this fiscal year due to the stock market crash, pension costs for cities could soon skyrocket.

We hope to flesh out the impacts of these costs within the next few weeks.

In Irwindale, city council members cut travel from their budget effective March 1.

In Monrovia, a city of nearly 36,929, the council lowered travel budgets by $1,100. Now, council members have $13,166 each per year to spend on travel and other community-promotion efforts.

During the 2007-08 fiscal year, Monrovia council members spent a total of $33,649 out of this budget, nearly $19,000 of which was on travel.

In West Covina, a city of nearly 105,000, council members spent nearly $20,000 in travel to cities across the country to attend conferences during the 2007-08 fiscal year.
Here’s how it broke down per council member: Councilman Michael Touhey spent $6,694; Mayor Roger Hernandez spent $5,255; Councilwoman Sherri Lane spent $3,655; Councilman Steve Herfert spent $3,058; and Councilwoman Shelley Sanderson spent $1,618.

But even if council members went to one less conference, the overall impact on the budget is barely noticeable – although the symbolic gesture is what matters to the voters, Public Policy Institute Director Max Neiman said.

Covina council members are still on the hunt for a permanent city manager. On Friday morning, the council held a special meeting to interview candidates for the position.

Since the termination of former city manager Paul Philips on Aug. 11, former Pasadena City Manager Cynthia Kurtz has filled the role as interim.

Kurtz’s first day was Oct. 1, and city officials said they expected the search to take up to six months, whoch comes April 1 – the same day Kurtz takes over as President and CEO of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership.



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