Pico Rivera Manager Saves $2 Million : Budget Trimmed to Fund Senior Center

Times Staff Writer

The City Council's marching orders were clear: Trim $1 million from next year's proposed budget, a spending plan that City Manager Dennis Courtemarche argued was "already lean."

Yet, Courtemarche this week went a step further. He delivered almost $2 million in cuts, a savings that now ensures, among other things, that the city's long-awaited senior citizen center will be built.

The council sought the cuts so the city could finance construction of the center on Mines Avenue east of Smith Park this year. The single-story facility with a kitchen, several meeting rooms and a large multipurpose room for dining and special events will cost about $2.3 million, officials estimate. But until this week's budget cuts, the city had only banked $1.3 million for the project. The remainder of the approximately $1 million in savings will go into the reserve fund.

At a special meeting Monday, the council adopted a general fund budget of $23.8 million for fiscal 1986-87. The spending package is 38% bigger than this year's budget of $17.2 million, according to Randy Rassi, the city finance director.

The reason for the increase, Rassi said, is nearly $5.5 million in capital projects, including money for the senior center. Other big projects budgeted for next year include $1.7 million for storm drain work and street resurfacing in and around the intersection of Washington and Paramount boulevards and $500,000 for a new clubhouse and snack shop at the city golf course.

Growing Elderly Population

Now that the senior center is fully funded, the city expects it to be completed by the summer of 1988.

Pico Rivera's elderly population has been growing, according to 1980 census figures. In 1980, about 16.5% of the city's 55,000 residents were over age 55. Today, about 18.5% fall in that category and by 1990, city planners predict, one-fifth of the city's residents will be 55 or older.

"This is a very stable community with very little turnover," Councilman James Patronite said. "As a result the number of elderly who live here is climbing."

Courtemarche had suggested that the city borrow money to complete the center, but the council disagreed and ordered the budget cuts.

Almost $1.2 million was saved by postponing or eliminating a series of public works projects, the largest a $550,000 realignment of Durfee Avenue as it approaches Jackson Street just south of Whittier Boulevard.

"When push came to shove, that project was a luxury," Courtemarche said, "so we deleted it."

Among the major items now on hold for at least a year include a rehabilitation of the Pico Park recreation building ($250,000), several street resurfacing projects ($116,900) and the purchase of new furniture and equipment for City Hall ($100,000).

'Line-by-Line' Cuts

The rest of the budget cuts, Courtemarche said, were the result of going "line by line" through the budget. Overall, he said, the city trimmed nearly $450,000 in proposed general operations expenditures. Every department, he said, had to absorb some cuts. Courtemarche added that none of the budget changes will affect the level or quality of city services.

Bill Kent, director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, said the city is acquiring the site for the center east of Smith Park on the south side of Mines. The city owns a small chunk of vacant land next to the park and is trying to enlarge the site by purchasing four nearby homes. Kent said the council will probably select an architect for the project at its Monday meeting, and if all goes well construction on the facility should begin within six months.

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