After toiling for eight hours during public budget hearings to make up a $100,000 shortfall, the La Canada Flintridge City Council adopted a $4-million budget for the 1988-89 fiscal year at Monday's council meeting.
Faced with a budget deficit for the first time in the city's history, the council made only one reduction in city services and decided to tap its $10-million reserve to help balance the spending plan presented by City Manager Donald Otterman two weeks ago. Otterman said a decrease in sales tax revenue and declining interest rates on reserves, the city's two largest sources of revenue, contributed to the shortfall for the 1988-89 fiscal year.
The city did not raise any fees for services, but did increase estimates in projected revenue by $35,000 for the next fiscal year. "The council felt I was a little conservative in my estimates, so it raised them," Otterman said.
He said the council increased the projected revenue from real property transfer taxes by $10,000 and raised the estimated revenue from construction permit fees another $25,000. Otterman said he estimated conservatively because of the fluctuations in interest rates.
The council cut $21,000 from city services by eliminating the community services officer from the law enforcement contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Councilman Ed Phelps, who voted against the proposed budget, disagreed with the cut, saying he was "vehemently opposed to any reduction in law enforcement services to our community."
The community services officer is a non-sworn officer who writes reports on nonviolent crimes and enforces parking regulations, said Capt. Carol Painter of the Crescenta Valley sheriff's station. She said the officer relieves sworn deputies of some of the mundane tasks of law enforcement and allows them to pursue more serious criminal investigations.
Phelps said he felt the presence of such an officer in the community was important. "I think that what we saw last night was the beginning of the chopping away of basic municipal services," he said Tuesday.
Phelps tried unsuccessfully to save the position by suggesting the request for a new city vehicle, also $21,000, be cut. The council could not agree at Monday's meeting whether to buy a new vehicle or continue leasing one. The city manager will come back to the council with a request at a later date.
"To take it out of the line item and put it in the reserve so we can do it later when nobody's looking is not the way to do it," Phelps said.
Included in the budget for the next fiscal year is a 4% pay increase for city employees and $10,000 for a new teen center at the high school. The city will provide an initial $5,000 to the center and match any subsequent contributions up to $5,000, Otterman said.
"Hopefully, this will give the kids something to do on Friday nights and Saturday," he said.
In other action, the council created a solid-waste advisory committee to discuss trash disposal and recycling, responding to a countywide concern over landfills.
"We are really faced with a trash crisis and we need to address it locally," Mayor Joan Feehan said. "It's time to manage our garbage."