The following comment posted here on The Tattler last week regarding the so-called "Sheriff’s Contract Proposal Review Committee" being a good example of what we are talking about today.
And some people actually wonder why the place gets called "Mayberry."
The question being raised by some residents is what's so difficult about getting a hard quote for Los Angeles Sheriff Department services and then laying that side by side with our police budget? At the very least you could use it to beat the union over the head with during contract negotiations.
Oh, but I guess then they wouldn't pose with you for your campaign postcards, right?
The taxpayers continue to pay a high price for that Harabedian shenanigan. No news if the City of Sierra Madre's investigation into this matter has come to any conclusions yet. After all, it has only been three and a half years.
The following letter from Sierra Madre resident Rick De La Mora was sent to Mayor John Capoccia and the rest of the City Council yesterday. Knowing Mayor Capoccia's reluctance to reply to e-mails that do not agree with his positions on issues such as this one we are not holding our breath over any possible replies.
That said, the comparison between La Canada Flintridge's arrangement with the LA County Sheriff's Department and SMPD costs here actually was brought up by Capoccia during his run for office in 2012. But then again, so was his principled opposition to tax increases. And we all certainly know where that campaign promise went.
Here is Rick De La Mora's letter:
Dear Councilman Capoccia:
My family and I live in Sierra Madre. We attend St. Rita's Parish, where my two youngest children attend school.
I am writing about the City of Sierra Madre's apparent intent to again put a tax increase proposal on the ballot and to support that effort by actively insulating the police services budget from public review.
The City's 2015-16 general fund budget list $8.9M of total revenues and $8.3M of total expenditures. Of this amount $3.9M is to be spent on police services (assuming further police related expenditures are not categorized elsewhere). This means that 47% of the city's General Fund expenditures go to police services.
For comparison purposes I have reproduced below the public safety section of the La Canada Flintridge city budget for 2015 – 16. La Canada has twice our population, three times our area, significantly more business, and three major highways within its borders. It is also a very nice town.
Like Sierra Madre, last year it ranked among California's safest cities. La Canada's total public safety budget, which includes items other than police services, is $3.2M. This is compared to general fund expenditures of $11.9M. La Canada therefore spends 27% of its general fund on police services. La Canada is not unique. In fact, I challenge you to find another city that matches Sierra Madre's 47% police spend.
The reason Sierra Madre spends $700k a year more on police services is that we have chosen to fund an independent police department. That choice has consequences. While La Canada has 73% of its General Fund to fund parks, recreation, the purchase of open space, and other public goods, we have only 53% leaving us effectively nothing with which to pursue discretionary expenditures.
Moreover, having contracted with the county for police services, La Canada is not on the hook for future pension benefits associated with employing those officers. We are. Neither of these problems will be corrected by raising the UUT and risking a counter measure seeking to repeal it.
Given these facts, I find it troubling that the City Council has effectively declared the police department and the 47% of general fund revenues it consumes off limits for budgeting purposes. In fact, rather than educating the public on these rather straightforward facts, the City has elected to conduct "surveys" about whether or not we "like" our police department without explaining the costs associated with it.
To be clear, I "like" having our own police department. When we were burglarized last month (the second time in two years) the officers were courteous and professional. That is not the issue. The issue is if we can afford it an independent police department. And, more importantly, what public good we are giving up to maintain that independent force.
Thank you for your service to the City, Rick De La Mora
Tonight's Sierra Madre City Council Meeting
The only big issue on this evening's agenda is an attempt by certain City Councilmembers to put a utility tax increase on the ballot for next April's elections. Here is how that one reads on this evening's agenda (link):
This would be the third attempt since 2012 by the City of Sierra Madre to raise the utility taxes here. The first two having met defeat at the polls. I would also like to remind everyone that at 12% Sierra Madre's UUT ("CalPERS Tax") would be the highest ever in the State of California. Which would be an unfortunate price to pay for Councilman Harabedian having gotten his photo taken with the two uniformed police officers pictured on the 2012 campaign postcard reproduced above.
The following chart comes from a site titled California City Finance.com (link). What it shows is that at 12% Sierra Madre would have the highest UUT ("CalPERS Tax") in the state. It is a utility tax rate that would literally be "off the chart."