City hit with financial losses and backlash as it plans next year’s fiscal budget

Story by Sofia Alva
Staff Writer

Photo by Katelyn Hernandez
Staff Photographer

South Pasadena’s budget planning for the next fiscal year will look drastically different as the economy is facing a downturn and the state plans to cut city funds due to the coronavirus outbreak. The city is expected to reallocate and shift funding to different departments in order to combat the $1.6 million dollar estimated loss in sales and property taxes, and user fee through June 30, 2020. 

The city’s projected $1.6 million dollar shortfall consists of a one percent loss in property tax revenue, a 13 percent loss in sales tax revenue, and an 18 percent loss in user fee revenue. Most of the lost user fee revenue has come from the lack of public activity, with the city facing a $500,000 loss in Community Service Programs revenue, a $150,00 loss in Parking Enforcement revenue, and a $200,000 loss in Facility Rentals revenue.

If the city is unable to regain its footing, the $3.5 million dollar loss through June 30, 2021 will involve a four percent loss in property tax revenue, a three percent loss in user utility tax revenue, a 15 percent loss in sales tax revenue, and a 31 percent loss in other city revenue. These losses will likely be subsidized through short term reductions, the shifting of capital dollars, and reductions in the city’s workforce.

Community members have also expressed concerns regarding the proposed funding for the South Pasadena Police Department. SPHS alum London Lang and former Tiger writer Brandon Yung organized a peaceful protest for not only the Black Lives Matter movement but to protest the proposed SPPD budget increase as well. 

A survey taken by 130 South Pas residents revealed a suggested community allocation of $6,866,739.10 for the police department. However the proposed allocation for the SPPD for the 2020-2021 fiscal year by the commission is $9,494,546.00. The commission’s proposed allocation is an increase of around $400,000 from last year’s budget which was $9,327,012.

Yung is calling on the city to discuss creating structural changes for police accountability before allocating more funds to SPPD, creating a petition to remove impunity clauses from SPPD contracts, establish a Police Review Commission, and release data relating to police misconduct.

“Decades of prioritizing a police presence has led to a police force that will soon exceed an annual cost of 10 million dollars,” Yung said. “It is obvious that our local experiment in austerity and high priority placed on public safety… has failed to the point of [creating] a broken city staff and cops who patrol by peaceful protestors every two minutes.”

In normal circumstances, the city hosts a town hall discussion in which residents are able to speak on the budget. This year, community input is especially important to the council. However, due to social distancing guidelines, an in-person discussion is not feasible. To counteract this, the city has set up a Budget Outreach website where residents can take surveys and view presentations and meetings related to budget planning. The city  hopes this will allow them to easily gather the opinions and thoughts of residents while maintaining social distancing.

“Previous traditional engagement has usually led to around 30-50 participants any given year through the Town Hall approach,” South Pasadena Finance Director Karen Aceves said. “This year, we have seen more participation than that through [just] one Finance Commission meeting held online, with 82 unique viewers. [And] as surveys are already coming in, a majority of respondents are indicating that they had never participated in the budget engagement process [before].”

To participate in the budget planning visit Budget Outreach Website. Residents may also submit your comments to The City Council will vote on budget adoption on June 17, 2020.

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