According to those I have spoken to, in no way were any of those speaking from any of the City Commissions informed that they were presenting evidence that 3 members of the City Council would then immediately begin to use as a justification for raising Sierra Madre's Utility User Tax to 12%. A figure that the Pasadena Star News notes this morning (click here, scroll down to the end of the article) would be the highest in the State of California.
Here is exactly what the Commissioners were told to prepare for this meeting. The passage presented below was cut and pasted from the document prepared for Sierra Madre's Library Commission.
During Phase II the City Council has requested that the Commissions / Boards provide initial, preliminary input that the Council can take into consideration when they provide general policy direction regarding the preparation of the budget. This means that a Commissioner / Board Member will make a 5 to 10 minute presentation to the Council.
So that there is uniformity between the departments, the attached “Commissioners / Board Budget Plan” provides the format to frame the discussion and the presentation.
At this phase, each Commission/Board should assume that they will have the same operational resources (funding) as the current fiscal year. (Do not assume the same level of capital funding, or grant funding as the current fiscal year. At this phase, assume that there are no funds for capital items or capital projects – concentrate on “operational” expenditures.) This means that any “new” programs, projects will need to be prioritized with the current programs, projects, etc. So in essence, it may be necessary to “delete” or “remove” a current program, service, or project in order to prioritize a new program, service or project. At the end of the Commissioner / Board Budget Plan document, you will see that there is a place to list any capital projects or capital needs separately from operational needs.
At the end of this document specific instructions in the form of a series of questions were laid out. These instructions dealt very specifically with Tuesday evening's City Council meeting. And if you watched this meeting you will see that the representatives of each of the commissions speaking adhered closely to this list.
To help with the preparation for the upcoming budget discussions and goals for the upcoming year, staff has put together a budget plan framework. The plan includes a list of general goals and objectives for the upcoming biennial budget (FY 2013- 2014 & FY 2014-2015), as well as any specific tasks the Commission/Board would like to see accomplished during the two year period. This plan will facilitate budget discussions. Input regarding the Commission’s/Board’s departmental budget should be completed by November 30th, for presentation at the Council’s December 11th meeting.
1. What do you see as the primary challenges or issues that need to be addressed by the Library department during FY 2013-2014 & FY 2014-2015?
a. What goals and objectives would you like to see accomplished for FY 2013-2014 & FY 2014-2015?
b. What specific tasks would you like to see accomplished in FY 2013 to 2014)?
c. What specific tasks would you like to see accomplished in FY 2014 to 2015?
2. How would you describe or define success for the Library Department?
3. What do you see as the strengths of the current Library Department?
4. What do you believe are the most critical, department needs? (Please answer as applicable for your Commission/Board.)
a. For the overall population of the City?
b. For youth in the City (pre-teens, and teens)?
c. For the senior population in the City?
d. For people who work in the City?
5. Please rank, in priority order, with the highest priority item listed first – the department’s current services, duties, responsibilities, projects.
6. Please re-rank, in priority order, with the highest priority item listed first – the Department’s proposed services, duties, responsibilities, projects; inserting new programs, projects, services. Please provide a ranking for each fiscal year. (Please remember that the Commission only has the current operational funding available to allocate to programs, services, projects, etc. This means, new programs/projects will “bump” current programs/projects off the ranking.)
7. Please rank, in priority order, with the highest priority item listed first – capital project, facility, capital expenditure needs.
8. Do you have anything else you would like to add (comments or questions)?
Again, these were instructions given to the commissions on what they were expected to present at Tuesday evening's meeting. They were in no way informed that immediately after their presentations Councilmember John Harabedian, along with Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Walsh and Mayor Josh Moran, were going to use what they had to say as a justification for a Utility Tax rate increase. Nor were they asked to present any information that could be used to reduce costs associated with their commission, or to refer to any relevant financial information that might suggest possible cost savings if implemented.
It is not right that people who volunteer their valuable time to work for this City should have been used as pawns in an effort to raise taxes. Particularly when the tax rate increase being pushed for comes on the heels of a Citywide vote where the residents of Sierra Madre voted overwhelmingly to oppose just that tax increase.