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Council OKs City-Balanced Budget

But Hermosa Beach Councilman Kit Bobko criticizes lack of information needed for 'fair and open' budget discussion.

The Hermosa Beach City Council on Tuesday voted 4-1 to approve a city budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

The council discussed in a budget workshop Monday the possibility of outsourcing the Hermosa Beach Police Department's parking enforcement and animal control services.

The panel agreed to not include it in this budget, but further study the option as well as other staffing and structural budget alternatives in the fall.

Changes that were seen in the budget included the permanent removal of 17 staff positions—salaries and benefits comprise 69 percent of the city's general fund budget, according to the staff report presented to council Tuesday. (See accompanying staff report under photo.)

The city's general fund appropriations saw a 2 percent drop. The city's total appropriations for the fiscal year came out to be about $35.9 million.

The approval of the budget followed two workshops—held May 26 and on Monday.

During the May meeting, City Councilmen Kit Bobko and Michael DiVirgilio expressed disappointment in the ability of some staffers to complete and submit requested reports.

"I am not going to vote in favor of the budget this evening, and my no vote is based on our inability to, in my view, have a fair and open discussion in the alternatives available to us," Bobko said to fellow council members Tuesday.

He said that the way the budget was drafted did not follow the City Council's directions.

"I, for one, simply cannot vote for a budget that, after pushing and clawing and screaming ... I was only then able to get a breakdown for one small item I had asked for," he said.

The report Bobko requested was on the Hermosa Beach Police Department’s parking enforcement and animal control services (see accompanying report under photo.)

"When I got that item, I learned that the actual amount of money that we pay for parking services, for example, is in two cases $93,000 and $92,000 for community services officers [those are the highest paid on staff.]... having found this now, I’m concerned that there are probably many, many more things that we have not even scratched the surface on yet," Bobko said.

He told the council that the market rate for parking-service officers is $11 to $14 an hour, but according to the report, Hermosa Beach is paying more than $40 an hour in some cases, which "just simply screams out inefficiency and screams out waste and screams out for reform," he said.

Of the overall budget, Mayor Peter Tucker said, "I think we are all interested in what [Bobko] has stated and as we know there are a lot of labor contracts we have to honor and work through, and there are things that we as a council have to say no to," Tucker said. "I feel that next year we will see great progress."

Many Hermosa Beach residents and members of the city's parking enforcement staff spoke before the council at Monday's budget workshop against the idea of outsourcing parking enforcement and animal control services to a private contractor.

"I understand it’s a very difficult job you have, but I also believe it would be a colossal mistake to outsource our parking people," said Hermosa Beach resident Rick Koenig to council members. "I deal with parking enforcement people on a daily basis and know most of them by their first names… I’ve seen them do nothing but treat [Hermosa Beach visitors] with respect."

Jim Karlock, community services officer, compared the idea of outsourcing services in Hermosa Beach to recent budget decisions in Costa Mesa, whose council reportedly plans to possibly lay off half its staff.

"You do work for the populous," Karlock said to the Hermosa Beach City Council on Monday. "The public's here supporting us, and I wear many hats. I'm parking control but also animal control officer... the public wants to keep us."

After hearing from residents and service officers, Bobko said that the outsourcing discussion was never meant to be about quality of service.

"This is about math," he said. "The cost of those who are providing this service is not comparable to anywhere else in the market... and when we wonder why we have the problems we do, I don't have to look any farther than this report."

The council decided Monday to direct city staffers to submit a report in the fall with proposals to reduce the city's core structural budget by 10 percent, and at least 2.5 of that 10 percent should be a reduction related to salary benefits.

"Let's aim for where we want to go and ask the team to come back with what they think the best answers are to get to that place," DiVirgilio said.

City Manager

Following the May budget workshop, the council held a closed-door session June 3 to evaluate City Manager Steve Burrell's performance. Another closed-door meeting was held Monday, the same evening of a budget workshop. Before the workshop, Mayor Peter Tucker said that no reportable action occurred in the session.

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