La Cañada keeps its balance despite state financial climate

It has been nearly 20 years since La Cañada Flintridge has operated in the red, and Mayor Steve Del Guercio said one of the biggest challenges in fashioning a $10.9-million city budget for 2012-13 is the financially troubled state of California.

“The state of California, despite laws that say [legislators] won’t pass unfunded mandates along to cities, has continued to create regulations that put burdens on the city,” Del Guercio said last week after the city adopted its budget for 2012-13.

The city budget sets aside $120,000 for state-mandated debris basin retrofitting and $100,000 for monitoring sidewalk safety.

“Whether it’s catch basins or doing make-work-type things, making lists of storm drains and these kinds of things … these rules make us spend money on things that are not necessarily effective on a local basis,” Del Guercio said. “I would have liked to repave more roads.”

Staffers told the council it should spend nearly $2.2 million on street resurfacing next year to meet the goal of completing upgrades by 2015, but the council set aside only $690,000.

City Engineer Ying Kwan said that figure will cover two miles of pavement.

“Whatever money we get, we’ll do our part to spend it,” Kwan said. “If we get more, then more streets get resurfaced.”

The council, which last saw expenditures top revenues in 1994, anticipates taking in roughly $11.8 million next fiscal year. In final budget meetings last week it boosted spending on capital projects — such as the street paving, making improvements to the Ultimate Destination overlook in Cherry Canyon and repairing Woodleigh Lane between Berkshire Avenue and Foothill Boulevard — by $332,000 to nearly $900,000.

The additional funds came from rosier predictions on sales tax and permit revenues, as well as transfers from the property acquisition and general funds.

“The staff felt after looking at these things that we could adjust those numbers up a little bit,” Del Guercio said. “The staff are very conservative; they generally never miss on the wrong side of it.”

Several community groups requested and received money from the city. The Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge was given $25,000, and the YMCA of the Foothills received all of the $29,000 it requested. The Lanterman House Foundation received $91,700, and the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce received $100,000. Other groups such as the La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Assn. and La Cañada Valley Beautiful received $12,000 or less.

“The good news is we were able to fund all of our community groups that came in and asked for money,” Del Guercio said.

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