Pasadena moves forward in budget process
By ROBERT STANTON
Pasadena city officials have moved closer to a new budget after City Council passed the first reading Tuesday of a $110 million budget for 2011.
The vote was 8-1. Voting for the budget were Mayor Johnny Isbel and council members Jackie Welch, Pat Van Houte, Erv Brannon, Phil Cayten, Steve Cote and Darrell Morrison. Councilman Don Harrison cast the lone dissenting vote.
The budget likely will be accompanied by a 3-cent increase in the city's tax rate, from 56.20 cents per $100 of assessed value, to 59.20 cents per $100 valuation, said Andy Helms, the city's director of budget and financial planning.
To address the shortfall, city officials have explored options to reduce expenditures.
Among the proposals is a $2 a month rate hike for garbage collection and implementation of a pilot program where trash would be picked up once a week, using 96-gallon containers.
By going to four weekly routes, the city could save about $768,000 annually, Helms said.
The city also has made cuts in departments through a retirement program that has included environmental services project manager Sarah Metzger, fleet maintenance director Bruce McCoy, and library director Sheila Henderson.
Harrison said he voted against the budget because higher taxes would hurt local businesses.
I don't think it a great time to raise taxes in a recession: Harrison said.
Each small business I know is just hanging on, and some are fixing to shut down. The businesses cannot afford a tax increase at this time, especially a small business."
The city has about $16 million in reserves and maintains a $13.6 million rainy day fund' that city officials maintain are earmarked for special projects, Harrison said.
The city charter says that all funds left over at the end of year go back into the general fund," he said.
The city should use the reserve funds to prevent layoffs, keep the library open full-time and to offset a tax increase, Harrison said.
Helms said the budget is the best the city could craft given the economic challenges in the state and nationwide.
Am I happy with it? No," Helms said. Our sales tax revenues are down, property taxes are down and industrial district revenues are down.
We've had to adjust our budget down by $10 million to reflect that," he said.
This will make it more challenging for our (city staff) to meet the needs of the residents."
A second and final reading of the budget is set for Sept. 14 at City Hall, 1211 Southmore in Pasadena. If passed, the budget will take effect on Oct. 1.
City Council is expected to approve a tax rate at the end of September, Helms said.
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