As you can see by the colorful pie chart above, each department budget shown is based on the old 10% UUT rates. Among the highest in California, this was something that the taxpayers here in town voted twice to get rid of. At tomorrow night's meeting the City Council will attempt to make that happen.
Or at least some of them will. One or two there do believe they know better than the people actually paying those utility tax rates.
Below are figures each department prepared for this meeting, and are contained in a report called "Budget Reduction Alternatives" (link). All but one department offers up options that represent a significant cut in their overall budget percentage.
That one exception being the Police Department. For the purpose of saving money this is a problem since the SMPD represents 40% of the overall General Fund budget, or nearly $4 million dollars. In order to keep that figure nearly intact other departments would have to sustain significant percentage cuts. With Community Services and the Paramedic Program for all intents and purposes going away altogether.
With projected future deficits ranging in the $700,000 to $1,000,000 range, the reluctance of the SMPD to consider significant reductions to their budgets potentially shifts a lot of the burden onto other city departments. The question that needs to be asked being is this really the smart way to go. In a traditionally low crime city such as Sierra Madre, do we really require quite so large a police force? And at the expense of so many other, possibly more important, things?
Here are the projected "budget reduction alternatives" numbers:
Administration, Finance, Human Resources, Elected & Appointed - Current $500,000
Community Services - Current $153,000
Fire & Paramedics - Current $1,768,000
Library - Current $810,000
As you can clearly see, the SMPD's proposed percentage reductions are minimal when compared to what is being offered by other departments. This despite the $4 million allocated to this one department. Additionally, what is not discussed in this Agenda Report is the reasoning behind this lack of sacrifice. Why the budgets of the SMPD should remain nearly intact while those of other departments would be significantly slashed, and in some instances at draconian levels, is problematic in my opinion.
There is a section of this report that deals with department outsourcing. It would be possible to save enough money through outsourcing the Police Department to save all of the other departments and preserve most of their services. The saving would be approximately $1,000,000. This would supposedly include closing the Police Station, which honestly I don't buy.
There is also a superfluous cost of $200,000 for event police staffing considered, but aren't those costs recouped from the involved organizations anyway? And at very high rates?
Here is my question. Wouldn't it be better for the Police Department to come up with a more realistic budget cutting proposal? Particularly when by doing so it would not only save itself from having to be outsourced, but also help preserve most of the services offered by the other city departments?
Sierra Madre has been one of the safest cities in California for decades. No matter what the size or focus of the Police Department. Given the numbers supplied above, perhaps this is where the City Council needs to look tomorrow night.