SH City Council to vote on approving Fiscal Year 2013-2014 budget at June 18 meeting

Sean Belk
Staff Writer

The Signal Hill City Council is scheduled to vote on approving the Fiscal Year 2013-2014 budget at its next meeting on Tuesday, June 18 at the Council Chamber.
At a budget workshop last month, city financial management indicated the City is projecting a $71,000 surplus next fiscal year, which begins July 1. The total amount in reserves for both the general fund and economic-uncertainties fund is estimated to be $10.1 million.
In the last five years, the City has scaled back expenditures and reduced revenues during the economic downturn. City Manager Ken Farfsing told the City Council during the May 29 workshop that the budget is now “slowly returning to pre-Great Recession levels” and this is the fourth year the City won’t have to dip into savings in order to balance the budget.
But still, he said city department heads have been asked to prepare their upcoming budgets “without significant increases over their existing expenditures,” adding that city staff remain cautious about the slow-moving economic recovery, while employee costs are expected to rise in coming years.
Finance Director Terri Marsh said the City has taken a “conservative stance” on projecting sales-tax revenue next fiscal year, which the City so far forecasts will be $11.5 million, a decrease of about $190,000 from the estimated sales-tax revenue for the current fiscal year. The City is projecting about $130,000 in new revenues from the EDCO transfer station.
For next fiscal year, city staff project more than $17.5 million in expenditures, which is $622,613 higher than the current fiscal year.
Deputy City Manager Charlie Honeycutt said added administrative costs next fiscal year include spending $75,000 for the June 5, 2014 special election associated with the “Taxpayer’s Right to Know and Vote” initiative. For the special election, city staff are budgeting about $39,400 more than what it would normally cost for a regular municipal election because of added costs for legal services and public materials, he said.
Honeycutt said another added expense is to cover higher city attorney fees. He said the City’s contracted attorney, David Aleshire, is requesting three consecutive $5-per-hour rate increases that go into effect July 2013, January 2014 and January 2015. Honeycutt said it’s the first time the city attorney has raised his rates since 2007, and the impact on the City’s administrative-services budget is estimated to be an additional $10,000 a year.
Mayor Michael Noll added that he would like to know what other city attorneys are charging and how much Signal Hill’s city attorney is charging other cities before considering the rate increase. “I think we need a study before we say yes,” he said.
One of the largest expenses next fiscal year will be shifting full-time personnel from the now defunct Signal Hill Redevelopment Agency to other city departments, which is expected to cost about $161,000.
Signal Hill city departments have also outlined a list of one-time expenditures totaling about $343,200 mostly being paid for out of the general fund that the City Council is expected to sign off on when approving the budget.
During the workshop, the Council gave staff direction on how to proceed with city department “decision packages,” which include proposed one-time expenditures that may be incorporated into the budget.
The administrative-services department is proposing to spend $5,000 on a study to upgrade the City’s antiquated cable TV equipment and $21,000 on upgrading the City’s strategic plan. The City’s finance department is requesting to spend $150,000 on new accounting software and a new server.
The Signal Hill Police Department is asking for $65,000 to pay for new electronic citation or e-citation devices, which will allow police officers to issue tickets through hand-held computers that print out receipts rather having to write them by hand.
Signal Hill Police Chief Michael Langston said using paperless electronic citations, which he said is only being done in a few cities in Los Angeles County, would cut down on the amount of time it takes an officer to issue a citation. Another benefit is that the electronic citations eliminate the need for manual data entry, which reduces staffing costs, he said.
Langston said the citation data would be automatically filed with the department’s records clerk along with the Los Angeles Superior Court to “streamline” operations. He said Los Angeles County has various requirements for the system to be introduced in phases and it may take a few months to fully implement.
Another requested expense is a proposal for various activities for the City’s 90th anniversary next year. The City Council agreed to spend no more than $9,000 on the year-long celebration, which may include street banners, a historic display at the Signal Hill Park Community Center, a block party, a summer concert, a newsletter insert and marketing. Some Council members suggested soliciting contributions to pay for the activities and services.

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