• Mayor’s Town Hall Explores How to Best Use City Funds

    by Winston Chua

    The San Marino City Council, at its most recent meeting approved to appropriate about $2.5-million for street light conversions, from high-voltage to low-voltage lights. At the town hall meeting Thursday morning, Mayor Kneier elaborated on why the council chose to take such action and how the council determines which future capital projects to undertake.

    The city had allocated $1.2 million to fix a portion of the city’s lights, which would have left it with an amount of $500,000 left over unspent, before learning that the whole city could be completed for less than $3-million.

    The extra monies allocated toward the city lights means the city will have a $1-million deficit for this fiscal year.

    The discussions for proposed and potential projects is relevant to the community because the city must finalize its budget in just a couple months. The city will learn what it receives from property taxes in June, based on the assessed property values.

    City Manager John Schaefer told a group of about a dozen or so Thursday morning that the total cost for all the capital projects the city wishes to complete is $15,157,500. The actual unrestricted monies that the city may use to work on its projects for next year is closer to $3-million.

    Schaefer made the point that investing in city lights will actually save San Marino some money in the long run because electrical savings will outpace the interest that would have been earned had the money been left in the reserves.

    San Marino has between $15-million and $16-million in reserves. Ideally they would like to have $18 to $20-million, the amount of money that could be allocated  for the city budget in any one year.

    At the town hall Thursday residents chimed in on what they thought might be important projects for the city to focus on. At the top of their list was public safety and improving the look of the city via rehabbing its roads. A few in the audience expressed that “the streets look terrible” and that the look of the city has been degraded over the years. Mayor Kneier said San Marino “has fallen behind infrastructure standards that we’ve been used to.”

    Why the lag? The mayor pointed out that the community made a great but expensive investment choice in purchasing Stoneman for $6-million and also helping to establish the new Crowell Library.

    City staff marked the following items as priorities: a new ambulance, five mobile computer terminals, five cars for the police department and two trucks. Staff presents a more formal, comprehensive list before Council in early May.

    The ambulance that the fire department is currently using is 15-years old. About 85% of calls to the fire department require an ambulance. Items on the list that met some opposition included paying for additional parking at Crowell Library.

    The most expensive items on the list of 46 items produced by city staff included street rehabilitation, complete striping of city streets , a tree replacement project, Stoneman rehab construction, a community center and various Lacy Park upgrades. Here is a partial breakdown of some items and their cost:

    Stoneman Rehab Construction, $10,000,000; Lacy Park Inner Circle, $300,000; additional parking at Lacy Park, $250,000; ambulance replacement, $229,000; emergency generator, $105,000; Lacy Park irrigation, $350,000; Lacy Park restroom upgrade, $250,000; complete striping of the streets, $225,000; contract sidewalk repair, $150,000; and Mission Tree Replacement Project, $150,000.

    The mayor and others present at Crowell talked about the possibility of proposing a new bond measure which, if approved, would help fill in the gap and allow more capital projects to be complete.

    Roughly half-a-dozen street projects will be funded through Prop. C, Measure R and gas taxes. Said projects range in cost from $103,000 up to $717,890.

    One of the top priorities for the City in the upcoming months will be to determine how best to use Stoneman School.

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