City touts financial situation

La Cañada Flintridge is in solid financial shape, but the city is planning to toe the line on expenses in next year's proposed General Fund budget of nearly $10.6 million.

Both revenues and expenditures are estimated to stay within 1% of the 2011-12 budget year.

City Manager Mark Alexander's report describes the plan as a “hold-the-line” approach toward city operations, in part because state finances remain in shambles, with legislators and the governor negotiating over a multibillion-dollar deficit and pegging their hopes on voters approving a $6-billion tax initiative on the November ballot.

The City Council is conducting budget hearings in a series of special 8:30 a.m. meetings that began Tuesday and will continue today and Monday.

Mayor Stephen Del Guercio said the city is fortunate to avoid budget shortfalls.

“Despite the very bad state of the state economy and the state's efforts to tap into sources of local government funding, despite all of those efforts, La Cañada's economics appear to be on solid footing,” he said.

The city anticipates General Fund revenues of $11,474,500, with 83% coming from property taxes, sales taxes and fees related to development. With expenditures proposed at $10,575,425, the city will have $898,075 to apply to optional items such as capital projects and requests from community groups.

Next year the city anticipates seeing a sales tax revenue increase of $74,250, bringing sales tax revenues to $2.2 million.

“Development, primarily involving the Town Center, has allowed us to be in a healthier revenue environment, healthier sales tax environment,” Del Guercio said. “Not only has it brought in new businesses… it has spurred redevelopment around it.”

Alexander said he's been working on the city budget since 1989, and he can recall only one year in which the city spent more than it took in.

Alexander said the city is fortunate to collect so much revenue from building permits and plan check fees, which are anticipated to bring in $1.35 million next year.

“For a built-out city we do have quite a bit of development that takes place,” he said. “We have a lot of tear-downs and rebuilds and remodels.”

The city's largest expenditure continues to be the public safety programs, including more than $2 million for the city's contract with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. Overall public safety costs are budgeted at $2.8 million for the coming year, compared to $2.5 million each of the last two years.

On Monday, community groups such as the Lanterman House Foundation and YMCA of the Foothills will make requests for city funding. Proposed capital projects include the Ultimate Destination Pocket Park in Cherry Canyon and support for a citywide 15-year street resurfacing program that is expected to cost more than $2 million in the first year.

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