Not out of the woods
Monica Rodriguez, Staff Writer
Created: 08/07/2010 04:47:05 PM PDT
POMONA – Cuts in services, layoffs, employee concessions and outsourcing have all helped give Pomona a balanced budget this year.
But even with all those cuts the city still faces an uncertain financial future.
Councilwoman Cristina Carrizosa said recently if that without an increase in revenue “it’s possible we will have to make more cuts.”
The city has made so many staff reductions that “we’re at the point where I don’t know who is left,” she said.
Last week council members decided not to place a measure on the Nov. 2 ballot asking voters whether the Pomona Police Department should continue to provide law enforcement services in the city or if Pomona should contract for such services with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Council also directed city staff to cease further research on contracting with the Sheriff’s Department.
The contract was being considered as a way to reduce city expenses since law enforcement takes up one of the largest portions of the city’s budget.
After last week’s council decision on the matter Carrizosa asked if the city would be able to fund its own department.
City Manager Linda Lowry said it was concessions negotiated with the city’s various employee groups that played a part in controlling costs for this budget year.
City representatives and employee groups will have to begin labor negotiations earlier than usual to determine what will happen next year, Lowry said.
Council members said recently labor negotiations will be just one part of addressing the city’s uncertain financial future.
Councilwoman Paula Lantz said the city must do several things including taking a good look at outsourcing services beginning with residential trash collection.
The city explored outsourcing the service three or four year ago “but at that time it didn’t save us much money,” she said.
It’s possible having an outside company handle residential trash collection for the city may result in a savings but probably not enough to merit doing away with employee furloughs, said Councilman Steve Atchley.
Still, this is something worth exploring, he said.
Another area that must be given attention is the careful review of the city’s contract with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Lantz said.
Council members are expected to take up that topic following their summer break.
Taxes aren’t necessarily an option in part because the council has little interest in seeking additional taxes.
“It really was not the will of the council,” Lantz said, adding council members feel this is not the time to ask residents for tax increases.
Councilman Tim Saunders agrees.
“Everybody is in trouble and it hurts, it really does hurt,” he said.
At this time raising taxes would do more harm than good because it would deter businesses from coming to the city when what the city needs is more businesses, Saunders said.
The city must work to attract business that will generate tax revenue for the city but to do that Pomona must also be more “business friendly,” Saunders said.
That means being more efficient in the way it handles permits for a project, he said.
In addition, the city must take steps leading to the creation of a system where businesses can learn what requirements they will have to meet to open a business in one place “instead of going through four of five different departments,” Saunders said.
But until the economy improves and businesses start coming into the city, “we have to really learn to spend less,” he said. “We have to tighten our belt right now and when taxes come in we keep them tightened.”
People have suggest asking voters for a public safety tax measure, Lantz said.
There was talk about a public safety measure.
“Anything like that takes a two-thirds (majority) vote and that’s a very high threshold,” Lantz said.
However, without a poll it’s difficult to say if a public safety tax is something a few vocal residents support or if a large number of city residents feel the same way.
Some city residents say if a reasonable tax proposal was crafted it could gain support.
Pomona resident Derek Engdahl said that after having informal conversations with Pomona Police Department leadership and other members of the department he thinks it is possible to come up with a tax proposal.
The proposal would have to have the input of members of the Police Department since they are familiar with the needs of the department but it must also be well thought out and should be reasonable, said Engdahl, who is also a leader of One LA, a grass roots group that focuses on matters of importance to families such as education, jobs, and public safety.
People realize the importance of public safety and its connection to different matters, Engdahl said.
“Public safety issues are really some of the key issues that underlie everything,” he said. “If things aren’t fundamentally safe then all things are undermined.”
City official said Proposition 22 is something that may provide some help if it’s approved by voters across the state.
Proposition 22 calls for banning the state from borrowing or taking money from local government, transit and transportations funds.
Lantz said if the measure is approved redevelopment dollars cities need would also be protected.
Those redevelopment dollars are important to carrying out development projects, she said.
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