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LCF City Council tasked with trimming $1M from 2018-19 budget proposal

The La Cañada Flintridge City Council has been considering the city’s financial future in a series of budget hearings this past week, discussing what may and may not make it onto the books in fiscal year 2018-19, which begins July 1.

In the initial hearing last Thursday, the council learned total proposed revenue available for the next fiscal year is estimated at $14,616,000 — with about $5 million generated by property taxes, nearly $2.7 million collected from sales taxes and $1.8 million from building permits and plan check fees, according to the city Department of Finance.

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Expenditures for fiscal year 2018-19 are estimated at $14,109,750, including nearly $4.3 million for public safety costs and $4.1 million for public works.

Factoring in adjustments made during the first hearing, the City Council had an estimated $784,500 in surplus funds to use toward programs, capital projects and requests from community groups.

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But with a wish list totaling nearly $1.9 million, the council is going to have to do some trimming, City Manager Mark Alexander told council members Monday, just before community groups made their pitches for discretionary funds.

“We’re still in the hole by about $1,083,000. But that’s assuming we were to fund everything — that’s usually not the case,” Alexander said.

The council began the annual process by reviewing expenditures for various city departments and programs page by page, comparing proposals to last fiscal year actuals and making additions and reductions as needed. One of the top expenditures is the city’s service contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

With a 2.57% increase passed on by the county agency, that base contract amount comes to nearly $2.8 million. An extra $185,000 for directed patrols and $182,175 for La Cañada Unified’s school resource officer, among other program expenses, brings the total to $3,835,200 — roughly 27% of the city’s total proposed expenditures.

Alexander also shared projections for the city’s general fund reserves, which dropped significantly in fiscal year 2016-17 after the council agreed to withdraw $5.5 million to put toward the purchase of a new city hall.

Staff is proposing another $1,574,275 be used in fiscal year 2018-19 to offset some of the costs of renovating the new municipal building. If approved by the council, reserve totals as of June 30 will stand at $13,126,875, the city manager said.

In that scenario, reserve levels would equate to 84.1% of revenues and 85.5% of expenditures — far below the council’s historic recommendation funding be maintained at 100% to 150% of La Cañada’s operational budget.

A third hearing is scheduled for Thursday morning.

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