Monday, May 25, 2015

Why Is The Sierra Madre Police Department Offering To Make The Least Amount Of Budget Cuts?

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Tuesday evening's City Council meeting will be dedicated almost entirely to trying to find a way to make the budget fit into the new 6% utility tax (UUT) reality Sierra Madre is now heading towards. In a municipality where the solutions in the past have always been simply to ask for more money, and as often as possible, this is quite a culture change. Especially for those running City Hall. This should make for interesting and at times emotional viewing Tuesday evening, with many concerned individuals pushing to save the budgets of those departments reflecting their particular areas of interest.

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

Planning & Community Preservation - Current $600,000
 Public Works - Current $532,000

Police  - Current $3,953,000

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.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com 

36 comments:

  1. Sierra Madre has always been a safe city despite the efforts of the SMPD to change that distinction....like shooting an unarmed sleeping man in the back....

    Since the Buchanan/Doyle/Walsh era's, I've always thought that the community would be better served and have a safer police response if the PD was outsourced. The PS spends more time justifying it's union and pensions than actual police work which in SM is basically writing tickets, code enforcement and anything of serious significance we outsource already to the Sheriff's or Pasadena PD.

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  2. Is Sierra Madre a safe place because of the police? Or is it because we are a community who cares about what happens here? I'm not sure. If the amount of activity for the police department is what is printed in our local rag, than they are over staffed. Perhaps the newspaper could do a better job in reporting police activity or the police could give a better report.

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    1. Good questions. How do we justify the $4 million the PD gets? Obviously it is the budget buster.

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    2. If $1 million was shaved from the SMPD budget, all of Sierra Madre's money problems would be solved. It is the insistence that they remain untouched that is causing all the other departments to take the big hits.

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    3. It is once again our geographic inconvenience that really saves the day. We are awkwardly located for criminals to get away.
      And there is actually a sense of community in most areas here so unusual activity is noticed.

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    4. the police report used to have the funny ones like a person calling in suspicious male youths wearing white shirts riding on Sunnyside or the not so funny like when the SMPD was listing 3 am arrests deep inside Arcadia and strange how a police officer shooting was barely mentioned

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    5. 10:16 is exactly right - SM can be a sleepy mark though

      if you wanted to rob all the banks in SM at once, all you'd have to do is cause a minor fender bender or stage accidents at both ends of Grandview - every SMPD officer would be up there and possibly overtime reinforcements

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  3. my question is why not reduce the "overtime" hours of the PD? Amazing that a department if fully staffed and actually appears to be overstaffed with hours yet we (the taxpayers) get hit with overtime and bonus pay for what?

    manning a barrier for the Mt Wilson Trail Race?

    what the public sector needs is a economic dose of reality with it's pay and pensions

    until then we are just getting screwed over - our infrastructure is collapsing yet some yahoo police officer can retire at full salary, buy a new boat and RV, travel or take a new job with pension and we are stuck with it

    gut the pension plan - gut the overtime hours

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  4. How many times has the SMPD sued the city?

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  5. We are over policed. Our police department needs to go on a diet. We need less police. We are a safe village because the citizens, not because we are over policed. The only reason the police last week got any of the thieves was due to the homeowner not our police department.
    I also believe the men that remain on our force after the cut backs, should be required to run the Mount Wilson Trail Race. Our department challenges other police departments as a fund raiser so our police department can ween itself off the us the taxpayers.
    It will also keep our police officers in shape, and observing the current force, not a bad idea.

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    1. When the City Council told the police chief he had to get leaner, he thought it was him personally, not the budget. Looks like he should put all of his officers on the same diet he went on.

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  6. Brilliant -the Mt.Wilson Trail Race challenge would eliminate most of the Police Dept. Most of them would loose their way !

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    1. That job could be done by security guards costing $12 an hour. The police department gets 10 times that.

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    2. that's barely the tip of it, the city charged the event almost $ 18,000 for pre event planning and it's the same event every year

      only in SM with this City Manager and the safe protected ponzi pension plan taxpayers are being bilked for - why not offer Calpers to the general business world if it's so great?

      cause it's a ponzi scheme

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  7. So, why are they having the Town Hall meeting on June 6th when they have already made up their minds to cut the community services department and the library? What a sham. I think Adam of Community Services was warned of the cuts to his department and got out just in time. As always, the City Manager has not come clean with the citizens and this not only caused the sinking of the UUT the past two ballots, but also caused deep distrust of the City Government. As MaryAnn once said, (paraphrasing) the people of Sierra Madre will rally forth of they understand what is needed.

    The strategic plan meeting in November decided to tackle the budget problem. Why wasn't it done then instead of a panic the last two months?

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    1. This is the most comprehensive financial information we have ever gotten from city hall, and it must be because the council has pushed for it.
      Go to the town hall meeting and give them your ideas. Some of them will listen.

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    2. I agree. Laid out like this on the tattler it makes a lot of sense. You have to wonder why some departments are being asked to give up everything, and others very little. What we need to find out now is the thinking behind these numbers, and then decide whether that thinking is right for this community.

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  8. Why does SMPD put 2 patrol cars on nearly every traffic stop? Sure seems like a Police Union work slow down to me.

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    1. How can you tell you have entered Sierra Madre? When you see two police cars, four cops and a black man seated on the curb.

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    2. don't sleep in your car - you might get shot

      it'd be funny if it twernt true

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  9. From what I hear from police offices from surrounding cities, Sierra Madre could cut at least two FTE police offices and get by just fine. A couple of years ago they threatened to cut our dispatcher which is a big joke. The dispatcher is the only one in the City of Sierra Madre that can be reached after hours. And, that position is the least paid. Come on, City Manager, quit your kowtowing to the POA and do your job.

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    1. scary our dispatcher got promoted to Detective or Code Enforcement, forget which cause it's about the same and the former dispatcher gets a gun - HIT THE DECK if bullets start flying

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  10. Statistically they thin out the ratio every once in a while: I saw one cop/patrol car, one pulled-over SUV with a mature woman (Asian?) at the south west corner of Grand View and Santa Anita last week. Probably a good thing as almost all the downhill drivers ooze through that southbound stop sign and one nearly t-boned a family member last month. The SMPD pulled that dangerous driver over!! Good idea to make a full stop at that stop sign, hey maybe every stop sign.

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    1. you should have heard the ex-Chief at a Council meeting trying to rationalize that SMPD traffic stops deep into Arcadia on Live Oak were the common result of the SMPD returning from the Pasadena jail and observing a DUI situation and then following the situation into another city for several miles? lol - after that Council meeting there wasn't any more listings of SMPD activity outside city limits, makes sense to go a mile or so but 8 or 9?

      I think the PD is great at traffic stops but we are paying for a full service fully funded per capita police department that really is substandard and we could contract out and save a million dollars or more and still afford a part time PD to fill in patrol gaps with County.

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    2. I wish they'd do more cross walk stings - I almost got hit pushing a stroller across Baldwin by a distracted driver.

      I'd be for our PD implementing a local fine and a out of town fine - local fines are half and out of town drivers who are ticketed are tripled.

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    3. I wish the cops could learn to use their turn signals...

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  12. $4,000,000 is a lot of money for a Police Department in a city as small as this one. If you take out Fire and Paramedics it is nearly equal to all the other department budgets combined. Is this why we need to give up the library, or community services? To cut all those back just to benefit the PD seems like a crime in itself. Maybe the PD should turn itself in.

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  13. Off topic, but I attended the Memorial Day event at Pioneer Cemetery today. MaryAnn Macgillivray gave one of the most heartfelt and exceptional addresses I have heard over the years. I felt so proud and grateful to be an American citizen. I hope the The Tattler will consider posting it.

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    1. Sierra Madre's VFW Post always does a wonderful Memorial Day event. Thanks to Commander Loera and his crew!

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    2. Mary Ann is a class act, we need her back on the city council

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  14. Outsource the library. Practically everything we need to know can be found on the internet. Having been a lifelong user of the library, this pains my heart, but the library can no longer be the sacred cow.

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    1. save the pensions, payroll etc and annex the SM library into Pasadena - the city would benefit and we wouldn't be paying about $ 200,000 a year in head and assistant librarian salaries, etc + long term pensions

      keep it open but make it part of the Pasadena system and all the Friends of The Library scare mongers would lose their chippy attitudes of the la la elite

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  15. What is in General Overhead? I don't see any cuts there.

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  16. Heard that only $2 from every traffic ticket wirren comes to the city. Can than be true?

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  17. Why does cutting the paramedic program completely save $200k when the budget says it is 500k-700k? Is the cost of the paramedic program actually underwriting the costs of the fire department?

    Wish I'd seen this article yesterday, but was out for the holiday!

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