A question to you in last weeks paper was: “What should be in or out
of the Laguna Beach city budget?” Your answers will be interesting.
At the April 9 City Council meeting there was a heated discussion over
a list of non-funded city projects and activities. A list of current
non-funded budget requests was attached to the agenda item. The budget
requests exceeded the available fund balance by more than $20 million. A
few of the non-funded projects included a community clinic, underground
parking at the proposed Community Center, parking at the Village Entrance
and a new or moved corporate yard.
Wouldn’t it be helpful if each council member reviewed this list and
established priorities for each activity in the list for public review
prior to the May 22 budget workshop? Then the workshop efforts could
address the issue of which projects will be funded in the coming year.
It was clearly explained to us at the April 9 council meeting on the
unfunded projects that the city budget cannot have a shortfall and must
be balanced. With the council having agreed on the projects to be funded
for the coming fiscal year, rather than debating the merits of projects
all year, city efforts could be spent on completing the agreed-upon
This does raise a question. How does the council know how much
projects cost compared to the original estimate? Do council members
receive status reports on projects underway with such information as the
original estimate, expenditures to date, estimated cost to complete and
Each budget does include a list of projects for each of the next 10
fiscal years for the capital improvement fund, sewer fund and gas tax
fund capital improvements. I couldn’t find a word about what happened to
last year’s projects. Were they completed on time and within budget?
Have you looked at a city budget? According to the latest budget there
are sub-budgets for each of the nine departments: Police Department, Fire
Department, Municipal Services Department, General Government,
Administrative Services Department, etc. The budget categories for each
department consists of salaries and wages, maintenance and operations,
capital outlay, special programs and capital improvements. Expenditures
within each of these categories are further subdivided into one of more
than 15 sub-categories -- categories such as salaries, full-time,
Medicare insurance, employee group insurance, vacation payoff, uniforms
and laundry, training, travel and dues, natural gas, material and
supplies. We do learn that about half of the city’s $40-million budget is
spent on salaries and wages. That’s it. That is all we know about what
departments spend and accomplish.
We sort of know what police and fire personal do. What do the other
departments do? How much is spent on city services such as street
sweeping, car washing, street repairs, landscape maintenance, parking
meter maintenance, etc.? How can intelligent decisions be made without
Last year there was a statement in the budget about starting an
initial preparation of a new financial reporting model, which will be
effective for fiscal year 2002-03. I wonder if the City Council knows the
status of this new financial reporting model? A performance-based
accounting system sure would be helpful. I hope that such a system is
added to the list of funded projects for this year. Wouldn’t it be nice
to know what we get for our money? Just wondering.
* GARY ALSTOT will contribute regularly to the Coastline Pilot
community forum page. If you want to contribute to Sounding Off, write us
at P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, CA, 92652, fax us at 494-8979 or send an
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