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City dips lightly into reserve amid tough budget year

In another tough budget year, Council taps into rainy-day funds.

July 06, 2011|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com

La Cañada Flintridge City Council members concluded four days of budget hearings last week with a decision last Thursday to leave $14.1 million in the city’s general fund reserves for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

While many other Southern California cities were forced to raid reserves while simultaneously cutting back programs and services, La Cañada instead saw its rainy-day fund grow by $1 million last year — leaving an enviable current balance of $14.7 million, almost unheard of for cities its size.

This year’s financial picture also offered a rosy, if somewhat tighter, outlook. Had council members decided to operate the city at an absolute bare-bones level over the next 12 months, projected revenues of $11.2 million could have resulted in even fatter reserves.

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Instead, council members decided to use that small budget surplus and scale back reserves as much as $600,000 to help fund a number of infrastructure projects and community activities.

“There’s a frugality in our governmental culture, and because we’ve done that over the years, we’ve been able to maintain our reserve. And when you have a good situation like that, you can reinvest in infrastructure that’s critically important to our city,” said Councilman Steve Del Guercio.

Approved public projects for the next fiscal year total well over 10% of the city’s spending next year on essential operations and salaries.

The approved projects include:

— $530,000 for street resurfacing

—$350,000 for trash screens over approximately 200 street drains

— $275,000 for maintenance for repairs to sidewalks, drains and bridges

— $200,000 to build median islands on Oak Grove Drive, splitting that cost with Pasadena

— $80,000 for trail repairs

— $12,250 for new fencing at the FIS tennis courts

— $12,225 to renovate the Lanterman Auditorium women’s restroom

— $5,800 to revamp the city’s website

Council members weren’t happy with some of the projects — almost bitter, in fact, at having to spend on drain screens to meet regulatory requirements by the Regional Water Quality Board.

“As hard as it is to swallow, I don’t know what other option we have,” said Mayor Dave Spence, who despite the city’s comparatively strong fiscal position described the week’s choices as being part of “a tough budget year.”

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