Friday, June 5, 2015

A 12.5% Police Department Budget Cut Is Both Fair & Key To Making Sierra Madre's Finances Work

We have run this pie chart before. Twice to be exact. But it really does tell quite a story. It comes from the handout City Hall put together for the Budget Town Hall Meeting, which takes place tomorrow. And what it shows is that the lion's share of Sierra Madre's General Fund goes towards the Police Department. 40% to be exact, or nearly $4 million dollars.

As we said a week or so back (link), each department of this city has made some very substantial budget reduction offers. Community Services, the department that takes care of a lot of the things people seem to care about, has offered to practically do itself in altogether. With proposed cuts that would reduce its entire staff to one uninsured part time individual.

Planning and Community Preservation, the Library, Fire and Paramedics, along with Public Works, also face the possibility of some very serious and possibly debilitating cuts. But as we saw, the SMPD's proposed percentage reductions are minuscule when compared to what is being offered by other departments. Here is how that all breaks down according to the May 26 Agenda Report.


Not a whole lot, right? Especially when you stop to consider that $4 million has been allocated to this one department. Additionally, what is not discussed in this Agenda Report is the reasoning behind that total lack of sacrifice. Why the budget of the SMPD should remain nearly intact while those of other departments would be significantly slashed, and in certain instances at draconian levels, is rather mysterious in my opinion.

There is a proposal from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department that is intriguing. For $450,000 a year less than that nearly $4 million the SMPD receives now Sierra Madre could partner with a massive public safety organization that comes complete with helicopters, SWAT teams, scary looking military equipment (in case the terrorists decide to hole up in Starbucks), search and rescue dogs, all of the tough stuff that Sierra Madre never had before.

And they will even hire any of our cops capable of meeting their physical and mental requirements. What percentage of our current officers would meet those requirements is anybody's guess.

For whatever reason, many residents seem opposed to this. The thought of getting rid of our own Police Department and bringing in an LA County Sheriff Department that they do not know very well is a bit wrenching for them, even with the impressive capability upgrades and reduced costs.

Which leaves the other possibility, which is pulling about half a million dollars out of the SMPD budget, or around 12.5% of what they're receiving now. It is not the largest proposed reduction percentage on the agenda for tomorrow's discussions, but by doing so a considerable amount of the financial pressure being put on other departments would dissipate, with many popular services being preserved.

Here is a series of three charts prepared by Transparent California's Robert Fellner. In my opinion they create a strong argument, one that justifies cutting the SMPD's budget by that 12.5%. In the process saving other departments and preserving that 6% UUT the citizens of Sierra Madre voted for twice.

This first graph compares Sierra Madre's traditionally low crime rate with that of neighboring cities.


This second one stacks up the percentage of the General Fund the SMPD receives versus that of those same four neighboring cities.


When you combine these two charts you get this revealing and remarkable picture: 


Pretty compelling, right? Plowing such large amounts of General Fund cash into the Police Department of a community with law enforcement needs as relatively modest as those of Sierra Madre makes very little financial sense.

Obviously that 12.5% Police Department budget reduction of $500,000 could work. The numbers show that this can be safely accomplished, and in the process saving many of the things this community values.

Namely the Library, Community Services, Paramedics, Fire Department, that 6% UUT you voted for twice and, by taking away the financial arguments for its outsourcing, the Sierra Madre Police Department itself.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

43 comments:

  1. The city needs to switch back to defined contribution pensions instead of defined benefits plans.

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    1. Someone on the City Council needs to have the courage to switch to the defined contribution pension from the defined benefit pension plan. I've mentioned it in detail too many times to repeat again. Google it to learn the difference and why its the only way to solve the unfunded pension liability crisis that affects so many cities. Its just commonsense. Make the City Council budget each year for their pension promises. It also prevents corruption which is why the public employee unions will always vigorously oppose it no matter how much sense it makes.

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    2. You have to wonder what the police union has on our city councils. We have been through two divisive UUT referendums, and despite two defeats they're coming back with a third. This is a near decade long drama that started with Enid Joffe's bizarre "It's peace in our time" declaration. Which, of course, gave us years of fights over taxes, budgets and lawsuits. All with this one union. Can't anyone just end this?

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    3. The problem is a lot of the SMPD would never make the cut with the Sheriffs. You'd think they'd jump for the higher salary, better benefits and sense of being a part of an elite organization. But a lot of them would wash out. That, friends, is what this all comes down to. Our PD is the force of misfit toys, they know it, and are fighting tooth and nail to keep things just as they are.

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    4. 8:33, that's part of the too bad category. Life is hard.

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    5. They should lay off the potato salad.

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  2. We are over policed, and it is bleeding Sierra Madre dry.

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  3. Those graphs are telling. A small efficient police force can handle the budget cuts. Heck, with the crime rate we have here in Sierra Madre we could get by with Andy Griffith and Barney Fife.

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    1. we've got a few Barney's on the force already

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  4. I won't be at the Saturday meeting as I will be out of town. However, I do have suggestions for questions to ask during the public comment:

    In regards to the alternative of going to LA Sheriff Dept.(LASD) or another agency for policing:
    1. Does the savings figure reflect the huge savings for SMadre for Workers Compensation insurance premiums that won't have to be paid for SMPD?

    2. Does the savings figure reflect the potential savings for SMadre for current CalPERS retirement costs that won't have to be paid for current SMPD employees? The LASD has their own pension plan.

    3. In regards to the LASD, if we contract with them, I'm assuming that pension costs are part of the current years contract cost. Would SMadre be responsible for an extra assessment in future years if the LASD pension needs extra money (like CalPERS does now).

    4. If the answer to #3 is no, then may we assume the potential LASD pension shortfall costs would be loaded into the current LASD contract?

    In (not) so short, it would be easy for the City to "forget" to reflects the savings in #1 & #2 to make the outsourcing seem less cost effective. Make sure they calculate for that.

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  5. It is time to make that tough decision City Council: Fire the City Manager. It is time to hire someone that can do the job and make those hard decisions. Replace the retired Police Chief. Bring in new blood, younger, not retired, and at a reduced rate in pay. Paying $185,000 for a retired Chief is outrageous!!! Bring in a Police Chief that can also make those tough decisions. It is obvious that Larry can not.
    City Council Members Stop the fleecing. Do your Job!!!

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    1. This is why voters need to pay attention. Gene Goss is a nice enough guy, but there is no way he'll face up to the Police Union. No freaking way.

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    2. Goss is in the cop union pocket, and so is Harabedian. There's two votes for UUT3 right off the bat. This has all been driven by that one union from the beginning. Time for our city government to regain control.

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    3. Goss and Harabedian are tied together as one on every issue. Gene will never do something unless he has the support of his buddy Harabedian.

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    4. They're the guys from the political machine.

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    5. Is it true Harabedian & Goss were separated at birth?

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    6. I am not sure they've been separated.

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  6. The answer from city hall will be poor response time. The police will have you believe we have little crime because they are so good at what they do. One of the policemen will stand up and tell you how he helped a littlle old lady shut off her water or some other homily. Have you ever wondered why it seems the union contracts are done behind closed doors, not open for public hearing? They can't even use the jail facility they have. We outsource to other cities. Do we know why? I almost don't want to go to the meeting tomorrow because they will say the same things they've always say. Their minds are set and the open meeting is to pacify us. The audience will be stacked with their buddies, etc. Be willing to fight them or we will just be another over-developed city with citizens you vaguely say hello to and ask for water at the local restaurants but want to make sure it's purified. Gag me!

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    1. Yeah, I know. You'd think people would have figured out by now that the PD's legendary response time is because the town is only 3 square miles. Or that the low crime rate has more to do with local road only access and distance from the freeway.

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    2. If the Sheriff's were in Sierra Madre the response time would be the same, if not better. Crime would drop.

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    3. 8:44, for some on our council, it is a dog and pony show. For others, though, it's a community outreach to gather information and really hear from the residents.

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  7. What in the hell has our city manager been doing for the past 6+ years?

    I believe her job was to "manage" , not increase spending.

    We were told again last month that she hired 2 or 3 new people which costs the residents another $500,000 per year. WHAT THE HELL IS SHE THINKING???

    The month of May she spent another $500,000 to hire more employees... and this month (JUNE) she wants to cut SMPD spending by $500K. O" I see, Elaine thinks the $500,000 is still available so she spends it!

    This is just like a drinking problem, we have a 1/2 gallon of hard stuff left, so lets drink it!

    CITY HALL continues to make bad decisions and has failed to manage the city's income!

    THE VERDICT IS OUT, we need to hire capable people who can manage / reduce spending & not be a spender herself $$$ I am tired of the continued headaches caused by incapable people!!!

    Here's another famous quote. Refer to city council meeting when Koeber & Cappocia were present. At the end of the year, finance director states that we have $250,000 unspend cash. Cappocia states its available, lets spend it!

    Koeber stats NO, I DONT WANT IT SPENT!

    Maybe we need to think about getting rid of our mayor also. The time has come, city hall MUST REDUCE SPENDING and not put the topic off again as they have continued to do in the past!!!

    The residents are tired of being screwed by city hall >>>>

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    1. Not spending any surplus + rising property tax revenues + increasing UUT revenues becuase utility bills keep going up = a functioning Sierra Madre with a 6% UUT. Oh, and cutting costs.

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  8. 8.58

    I could not have used a better group of words!

    Correction;
    It was my understanding that it was not a surplus of $250K, but $870k +/-!
    Cappocia stated that he wanted to spend the entire surplus, " that's what we did at the telephone company"

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    1. The surplus is mostly due to rising property taxes and the fact the City cut spending after the UUT failed in 2012.

      Do you really think they'd have cut spending if the UUT had passed? hell no.

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    2. Sad to say it will probably take a third UUT defeat to bring city hall to fiscal sanity. Kicking and screaming, of course.

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    3. This is how the city council vote on a 3rd UUT initiative will break down. For it, Goss and Harabedian. Against it, Arizmendi and Delmar. The swing vote either way will be John Capoccia.

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    4. Capoccia will vote yes. He voted yes in 2013 to put UUT 2 on the ballot for 2014.

      Vote last time was 4-1 with Koerber as only no vote.

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    5. How does City Council sell UUT 3 on the ballot in 2016 when the Council looks like it will be a 3-2 split? Good luck with that.

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    6. Lack of $$ coming into City Hall will focus their minds. Trust me.

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    7. Harabedian is working very hard behind the scenes to get the UUT back on the ballot. He owes the cop union for past favors plus it will help him politically with the LA County democrat bigwigs. He needs this win so he can run for Holden's seat when he terms out.

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    8. Good luck with that, Johnny H.

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  9. Thanks for laying it out like this Tattler.

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  10. perhaps you can prepare for this meeting tomorrow by watching several episodes of Parks and Rec.

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    1. Yeah, but there's no Ron.

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  11. Not as many comments here as there should be!

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    1. People want to talk about the fire horn.

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  12. How the biggest utility tax increase in Sierra Madre history was announced by the Mountain Views "Observer" on 12/21/07: Sierra Madre and Police Reach 'Historic Agreement' - "It ends years of discord between the city and POA" - Mayor Joffe

    It never ended anything.

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    1. replace the word "ends" with "starts" and you would be right.

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    2. Never did anything but delay the inevitable.

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  13. I just received my water bill enclosed in it is the exemptions to UUT tax info.
    I no longer qualify for my exemption :(
    Let it sunset to 6%..........

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  14. Then you need to vote to Repeal all uut taxes.

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