Montebello $3 million in the hole

Montebello city officials finally announced what their deficit is: $3 million.

I wrote a column a while back about all the drama in Montebello:
Here’s the link

And here’s Tom Himes’ article in today’s Tribune:

Montebello deficit fueled by overtime costs and less revenue than expected from red-light cameras
By Thomas Himes, Staff Writer
Posted: 02/11/2010 07:00:49 PM PST

MONTEBELLO – Officials Thursday estimated the City’s budget deficit at $3 million and outlined reasons for the short fall that range from red light cameras to overtime hours.

Over the past week, nine employees lost their jobs, dozens more took 5 percent pay reductions and several agreed to retirement, as officials worked to close the deficit.

“Unfortunately, this day has been coming for a long time,” said retired city administrator Richard Torres. “I was hoping it could be avoided for at least another year.”

Red light cameras fell about $500,000 short of the projected revenue they were expected to create.

“If the program does not result in a positive revenue my recommendation is that we end it, Narramore said.”

The city paid consultants $55-per-hour to administer the red light camera program, according to city documents.

“We incurred a lot more expenses and a lot less revenue than we thought we would from the cameras,” City Councilman Robert Urteaga said. “People simply identified where the cameras are and stopped.”

Mayor Bill Molinari said the cameras, which are located at six intersections, have increased public safety.

“The intersections where these cameras were installed had frequent collisions and a number of fatalities,” Molinari said.

Also, overtime hours the city paid to firefighters, exceeded estimates by about $500,000, Narramore said.

“All overtime has been stopped,
unless it’s an emergency,” Narramore said. “We’re just not paying overtime for someone to come in and do something they can do the next day.”

But, the state’s Government Code mandates a minimum of four firefighters to a truck, Narramore said.

“If someone calls out sick, we have to pay some else time-and a half to come in,” Narramore said.

Additionally, the state owes Montebello $500,000 for firefighters the city sent to help combat the Station Fire, Narramore said.

To cut payroll spending, five employees have agreed to retirement, Narramore said.

“I’ve frozen vacant positions so they can’t be filled,” Narramore said.

Non-represented staffers, mid-management, police management and department heads will all have monthly furlough days, Narramore said.

“Somehow I need 5 percent from every employee,” Narramore said. “I met with finance this morning, we haven’t made it up yet.”

Finance Director Michael Chickwan Tam refused to comment, directing all questions to his secretary.

Narramore said the more employees who agree to furloughs, the less he will have to layoff.

“The different bargaining groups understand there’s challenges and they want to help solve them,” Narramore said.

626-962-8811, ext. 2477

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