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Consultant to Study Municipal Fees : Montebello Cuts Costs; Still Faces Shortfall

February 11, 1988|RICHARD HOLGUIN | Times Staff Writer

MONTEBELLO — The City Council took modest action this week to ease the heavy drain on its financial reserves, consolidating several administrative positions for an annual savings of about $62,000.

Despite the cuts, the city will spend about $1.2 million more from its general fund than it expects to receive this year, said City Administrator Joseph M. Goeden. The city has been using reserves originally earmarked for road and other capital improvements to make up the shortfall.

City officials must consider additional spending cuts and work to attract new development--and the tax revenue that comes with it--to balance spending, Mayor Arnold M. Glasman said.

"The financial impacts are something we have to address within the next year," Glasman said. "What we're using . . . (is) our alternative reserves. It's going to be more difficult when we get into next year."

In a related action, the City Council on Monday approved spending $37,500 to hire a Dallas-based consultant--Vertex Cost Systems Inc.--to study the fees Montebello charges for services such as building plan checks. Those fees, which could be raised if the consultant determines that they are too low, are expected to provide the city with about $400,000 this year, Goeden said.

"The whole idea behind this kind of a study is to take a look at the fees that we're charging for our services to see if we're recovering our costs," Goeden said. "I think it'll more than pay for the cost of the study."

Under the reorganization approved Monday night, Police Chief Les Sourisseau assumed the position of assistant city administrator. That position was vacated last year, when former Assistant City Administrator Richard Torres became the city's director of maintenance and transportation.

The responsibilities of the assistant city administrator include heading city negotiations with its employee associations and aiding with economic planning.

To help Sourisseau manage the Police Department, the council created the position of deputy police chief. The council is considering Sourisseau's recommendation that the position be filled by Capt. Steve Simonian. The captain's position would be filled by a lieutenant, whose position would remain vacant.

The city will save about $20,000 from the police reorganization, Goeden said.

The shift will have little effect on the daily operation of the department, Sourisseau said.

"The Police Department is still my responsibility. I'm just assuming additional duties," Sourisseau said. "Simonian will be running the routine operations and I'll confer with him."

The arrangement would remain in effect until June, 1989, when Sourisseau plans to retire.

The city plans to save about $42,000 a year in general fund spending through the elimination of the position of facilities manager in its Parks and Recreation Department. The current facilities manager, Larry Torres, will fill the vacant post of Grants Programs and Projects manager.

Torres coordinated the parks department's effort to secure grants and performed other administrative duties. In his new position, he will work to obtain state and federal transportation grants, as well as parks and recreation grants, Goeden said.

Other parks and recreation employees will assume additional administrative responsibilities.

Goeden acknowledged that the city still has a long way to go to balance spending.

This week's reorganization, he said, "presented an opportunity to take advantage of vacancies and make cuts without laying off employees. We need to do that 12 or 13 more times to really chip away at things (the spending shortfall)."

The City Council in August approved a $45.8-million budget with a $20-million general fund. The general fund pays for basic expenses such as police and fire protection.

Last year the council eliminated five positions in its fire, finance and parks and recreation departments and made other cuts to reduce spending by $386,000.

Despite those reductions, officials projected last summer that the city would spend $1.5 million more in general fund revenue than it would take in during the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Officials are now projecting the city will receive $250,000 to $300,000 in additional sales tax revenue, reducing the shortfall to about $1.2 million, Goeden said.

Montebello is trying to weather a period of financial hardship during which employee salaries and other costs have risen while some sources of revenues have evaporated.

The city was receiving about $1 million a year in federal revenue sharing money before Congress eliminated the program two years ago. Montebello lost another $1.4 million a year when the council voted to eliminate the city's utility tax beginning in 1986-87.

To compensate, the city has been drawing from leftover revenue-sharing funds and other reserves to pay its bills. In this fiscal year, for example, more than $2 million will be taken from revenue-sharing and state gas tax funds, leaving those funds with a balance of about $4 million, officials said.

Goeden projects those funds will be depleted after the 1991-92 fiscal year if the current level of spending is maintained and revenues do not increase.

Last year, the City Council tentatively approved eliminating seven police and fire positions in addition to the five positions that were cut. The seven positions were retained after residents protested the cuts.

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