Community Provides Input at Budget Meeting

Suggestions Made on Priorities in Town

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More than 40 members of the public evaluated and prioritized six projects for the City of South Pasadena to focus on during the 2017-18 fiscal year starting July 1.

They spent almost three hours doing this at a city-sponsored forum at the Library Community Room on Saturday morning March 11. The projects were from a list provided by city staff.

Their first choice was creating a bicycle and pedestrian trail in the Arroyo Seco. Replacing the existing Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in the Fire Station was next. The third was developing two vacant lots into small parks.

They deemed three other projects to be less important. They were—from most important to least important—building a community center, constructing a banquet facility at the city golf course and renovating the City Council Chambers.

City Manager Sergio Gonzalez and his staff organized and conducted the session. This was the city’s second year for holding this type of priority-setting meeting. A number of attendees were members of local organizations and city commissions. Some participants had previously been at similar planning sessions. For others, it was their first time. Mayor Michael Cacciotti and city councilmembers were present.

Welcoming the group, City Treasurer Gary Pia said South Pasadena “actually asks the community that pays the taxes how they would like to see that money spent.”

City Manager Sergio Gonzalez described the city’s financial status prior to asking the group to evaluate projects. Costs, such as those for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), have escalated, he said.

Since 2015, city expenditures have almost equaled revenues, according to a slide in his presentation.

“The question is, ‘How do we balance what we have to do with the things that we want to do?’” Gonzalez said. “That is what we are focusing on today.”

Staff members summarized the six projects. All of them are in some stage of development. Community members gathered at six tables in teams to deliberate. The projects were listed in order of importance, and each team reported their results to the entire group. Staff tabulated the overall rankings.

The participants chose the Arroyo Seco Bicycle and Pedestrian Trail as their top priority. This is a 0.6-mile mixed-use transportation and recreational trail, according to meeting materials. When completed, it will connect users from Pasadena to Los Angeles. Its cost will be $250,000.

Second was construction of an EOC. This would be used during a catastrophic event. Police Chief Art Miller described the existing facility in the Fire Department as inadequate. Funding needed was listed as $200,000. This does not include communications and technical outfitting.

Third was the development of two pocket parks. These would be developed on land designated as surplus by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and released for sale.

One is at 2006 Berkshire Avenue in the southwest part of the city. The second is at 1107 Grevelia Avenue between Fremont and Meridian Avenues, just south of the 110 Freeway. The funding required is $400,000. The parks will take from one to three years to develop, according to meeting materials.

A proposed community center was seen as fourth in importance. This is a planned multipurpose facility for cultural, recreational and other activities. The location is Orange Grove Park, the Recreation Building and the City Yard on Mission Street. The cost would be $14,400,000.

Fifth was a proposed Arroyo banquet facility at the city golf course. About $5,900,000 is needed to create a new clubhouse. This would include a banquet room, restaurant and other facilities.

Selected as the last priority was remodeling the City Council Chambers. This would cost $723,000.

Gonzalez said the City Council would soon consider the results of the group’s rankings. A 2017-18 budget study session is scheduled for Tuesday, March 21. Department heads will propose their budgets at this time. A Capital Improvement Program will be presented.

At the March 11 meeting’s close, Gonzalez asked participants at each table for one word to describe their experience at the forum. Positive responses followed, including words like “exciting,” “educational,” “engaging,” “interesting” and “energizing.”

Community members will also have several opportunities to provide input at the following public meetings:

  • Tuesday, March 21, the City Council and staff will hold a Budget Study Session in the Council Chambers, 1424 Mission Street, to review the proposed Capital Improvement Plan as well as staff funding requests for the upcoming year.
  • Wednesday, May 17, City Council Meeting, staff will present a draft budget for Fiscal Year 2017-18.
  • Wednesday, June 7, City Council Meeting, the City will hold a Public Hearing to discuss the proposed budget and, potentially, adopt it. Public comment is encouraged at each meeting.

 

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