Story by Sofia Alva
Photo by Katelyn Hernandez
The city council voted down the proposed budget and instead opted to continue appropriations of the 2019-2020 budget at its meeting on Wednesday, June 24. Council members also approved the creation of a six member sub-committee regarding the future of policing in South Pasadena.
The decision to continue appropriations will extend funding levels from the 2019-2020 fiscal year until a new budget is created following the completion of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). Thus, the budget will not reflect the $3.5 million shortfalls the city faces because of the coronavirus until a new budget is approved.
After discussion and review at its meeting on Thursday, June 18, the Finance Commission voted to reject the current budget and instead suggested a six-month delay in adopting a new one. The new budget will be created online through collaborations with the community, finance commission, city department heads, and city council.
The appropriations will also allocate $80,000 to the finance department to hire an accountant for six months to assist in correcting historical accounting deficiencies and finalizing next year’s budget process.
Despite concerns from some council members, finance director Karen Aceves assured the council and community that her team has completed over 70 percent of the audit and is working to correct past mistakes.
“When we started [the audit] we had significant accounting errors that we had to go back and reconcile,” Aceves said. “Typically you have to close out the year before you can get started on the CAFR and audit process. Without having the year closed out because we were making those corrections, it wasn’t practical for the auditors to come do field-work until that’s [the audit] completed.”
In lieu of traditional town hall budget meetings, the city launched an online budget outreach program back in May. The results of the community survey surprised Aceves and the finance department as many residents prioritized other city services over police, which is the opposite of the past general city opinion.
The finance department slashed funding for SPPD’s community service programs like self-defense training in response to this feedback. However, residents argued that the city did not go far enough in diverting funds from the SPPD, so they urged the council to completely restructure the budget before adoption.
“We should really not rush into deciding how tens of millions of public funds should get spent,” activist group South Pasadena Youth for Police Reform said in a public comment. “A better public engagement process would engage a larger segment of the city who wasn’t able to participate last time, many of whom believe that we should radically be rethinking the role police play in our relatively small community.”
The city council also voted unanimously to appoint a sub-committee on the future of policing in South Pasadena. Many community members voiced their support and interest in being involved in the sub-committee.
“The limited capacity of police officers in their current form is not sufficient to provide mental health services, social services, and housing services that are often required when SPPD is called,” SPHS alumnus Will Hoadley-Brill said. “I urge the council to pass Dr. Khubesrian’s motion to form a city council sub-committee to research and investigate the incarnation of policing in the future in South Pasadena.”
The sub-committee is comprised of Hoadley-Brill, five other community members who expressed interest, and council member Marina Khubesrian, and will meet for the first time on Thursday, July 2. Their first priority is to create a virtual town hall where South Pasadena residents can share their thoughts on the SPPD. The sub-committee members will then use the public’s opinions to guide policy changes to local policing.
The city council will meet next on Wednesday, July 1.