• Bare-bones budget is balanced

    ‘This is a remarkable budget,” said Councilmember Bill Kampe.
    Pacific Grove’s City Council OK’d the first draft of the fiscal year 2012/13 budget which was complete with five more hours for the Library, the agreed-upon increases in the City’s contribution to the Museum, and funding for deferred maintenance. It included keeping recreation programs such as the preschool and Adventure Camp. It did not include an admissions tax on the Aquarium, nor did it rely upon parking meters in the Retreat.
    The budget provides for a $406,000 reserve. There will likely be some shuffling of staff duties to increase efficiency as well.
    Most of the time at the Council meeting was spent in oral communications as members of the public testified about the merits of the recreation programs and the Library while voicing dismay over a potential admissions tax. “Don’t wreck Rec,” as Wendy Giles, a mother who testified, put it.
    There had been a suggestion of outsourcing the Recreation programs even though they are breaking even. The retirement of the pre-school leader brought the city manager to suggest the program be suspended over the summer while another leader is sought. Many took offense, saying the City should not make the retiring teacher “feel guilty” for the suspension of the program.
    The City will begin the search for a new pre-school teacher, according to Polly Fry in Human Resources. The position requires serious vetting.
    The pool at Lovers Point is in need of repair and upgrading to make it ADA compliant. The city manager advised Council that he is seeking various ways to finance the potential $70,000 bill, including working with the contractors who are making improvements to the Beachhouse (formerly the Old Bath House). Improvements to the pool must be made before reopening it, and delays in construction at the Beachhouse have pushed any potential opening to past mid-July anyway, for safety reasons. School opens Aug. 8 in Pacific Grove, making for a very short pool season.
    Some speakers at the podium, like Steve Thomas, told the Council that they should explore other funding options and that there were many in the city willing to put private funds into the Rec programs and the pool repairs.
    The potential of levying an admissions tax in the city was another hot button. City Finance Department’s Tony McFarlane estimated it could bring as much as $1.5 million to city coffers, but the idea appeared to be extremely unpopular with both the public and councilmembers, except Dan Miller. What was mentioned only briefly was that an admissions tax would have to go to the voters and would include other City venues as well, making passage extremely unlikely as school events and the movie theaters would be part of the mix.
    “Finesse instead of force” was how councilmember Ken Cuneo put it. Most councilmembers agreed that taxes were not the answer – careful cutting of expenditures was, along with increases in tax-generating activities, as voiced by Robert Huitt. “We need to make Pacific Grove a very attractive place to be,” he said, urging no parking meters and more effort into beautification and deferred maintenance.
    “I’m fed up with taxes,” said councilmember Alan Cohen. He thought that sensors to improve parking control as well as increased fees for heavy vehicles were good ideas.
    Most councilmembers agreed that answers to the skyrocketing retirement costs should be sought, as well as re-examination of the safety services models for police and fire, expenditures which are more than half the city’s budget.
    Councilmember Rudy Fischer suggested exploration of refinancing the golf clubhouse bond as a cost-saving measure as well.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on May 6, 2012

    Topics: Front PG News, Marge Ann Jameson

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