Pasadena Gets an $872.5 Million Budget for 2020

Council OK’s plan for spending to include fire station replacement, 911 system improvements, park and library enhancements, and Colorado Street Bridge barriers

Published : Tuesday, June 18, 2019 | 4:51 AM

Bringing to close months of community meetings and chamber hearings, the Pasadena City Council Monday unanimously approved a resolution to finalize the City’s Fiscal Year 2020 Operating Budget, just two weeks before the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.

The Council also authorized the transfer of 10 percent of the City’s Power and Light revenue — $17,388,144 million — to the City’s General Fund.

The $872.5 million budget includes personnel costs of $169.2 million, representing 61.7% of the budget.

It also features, among myriad expenditures, the building of a new firehouse, and the construction of as-yet-finalized suicide barriers for the Colorado Street Bridge.

The budget “furthers the City’s mission to deliver exemplary municipal services responsive to our entire community and consistent with the City’s history, culture, and unique character,” said a staff report from City Manager Steve Mermell’s office.

Much of the discussion Monday centered around funding for Public Safety — more specifically, the Police Department. Councilmember Steve Madison told the Council that the Police budget of $88 million does not “keep the promise” of the City’s Measure I, passed last year. The revenue from the measure adds an additional $14 million to the City’s yearly budget.

Madison noted that of the $14 million, only $800,000 of the revenue is going to the Police Department.

Said Madison, “Six or seven of the nine purposes (in the ballot measure) were public safety-related.”

City Manager Mermell reminded Madison that the funds were to be used to “maintain services,” not necessarily increase them.

But, following a suggestion by Councilmember Victor Gordo that Police Chief John Perez could “revisit” the budget later in the year, Madison stressed that “the time is now to set the direction of this budget.”

Councilmember Victor Gordo said he agreed with Madison, but was concerned about time constraints, and the difficulty in reaching consensus in the Council. He added, however, that he would support a friendly motion to provide more revenue to the Police Department.

Mayor Tornek, who helped draft Measure I, told Councilmember Madison that his assumption was “simply not correct,” and that “maintenance” was the goal of the additional revenue.

Councilmember Margaret McAustin did not agree with Madison either, saying that she supports the budget and that she felt it “was consistent with the goals of Measure I.”

Added McAustin, “It reflects our values, and who we are as a city.”

Madison’s eventual motion to direct an unallocated $500,000 to the Police Department eventually failed, as did a similar motion by Gordo that would have directed the same amount to Public Safety, with funds going to both police and fire.

The Council eventually approved a motion by Councilmember John Kennedy to support the original staff recommendation.

Meanwhile, the staff report noted that “Pasadena’s local economy continues to perform well with the latest unemployment rate at 4.0% compared to Los Angeles County as a whole, which was at 4.7%.

“Commercial development continues to be robust,” the report continued, mentioning the Constance Hotel and the new Hyatt Place Hotel as successful current and planned developments.

Additionally, the report noted, the City’s Transient Occupancy Tax related to short-term rentals has performed slightly better than expected, with annual receipts of roughly $700,000.

The approved Operating Budget also reflects a number of enhancements, including $317,000 for Paramedic training for Fire Fighter staff; $80,000 for a Case Manager to further the City’s existing Homeless Outreach efforts; an additional $68,000 for a Recreation Site Coordinator at Washington Park; and $40,000 for Census outreach.

The 2020 Capital Improvement Program Budget will also include $1.5 million towards the replacement of Fire Station #37; and $2 million for the replacement of 9-1-1 emergency communications equipment, $ 1 million for Citywide facility improvements, including Jackie Robinson Community Center and La Pintoresca Library; and $1 million for High-voltage street light replacement and conversion.

The budget also includes $750,000 for the construction of Colorado Street Bridge suicide prevention barriers, with a total project cost estimate of $3 million, as well as funds for City Hall building security management, a fire alarm and sprinkler system for Central Library, and ADA sidewalk improvements.

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