Artesia Mayor Victor Manalo said the recent scandal in the city of Bell served as the impetus for his decision to plan four town hall meetings slated for 2011.
“The people who live in Bell didn’t even know what was going on,” said Mayor Manalo during the first town hall meeting held at April 14.
“We’re holding these events to let people know the state of the City and what’s going on,” the mayor added.
The sparsely attended first meeting featured city council members, residents, city employees and a member of law enforcement. Everyone in attendance had the opportunity to ask the mayor questions and make suggestions about issues and topics concerning the City.
The major topics of discussion were the City's 2010-11 general funds, and the current status of redevelopment funds, some of which have been earmarked for several city projects.
Members of the city staff distributed handouts with pie charts depicting generated revenue, and how the general funds were allocated. For instance, sales taxes accounted for more than half of the general fund, which is revenue from all sources. Sales taxes totaled more than $4.6 million of the fund’s $7,054,190.
“Sales taxes are our biggest chunk,” said Manalo. “We (Artesia) get one percent of every sale made in the City.”
When Manalo was asked by an audience member if the City received funds from property taxes, he said, “No. Due to Proposition 13 a few years ago, Los Angeles County takes those funds.”
Artesia’s funds have also been hurt due to the struggling economy. Manalo said the City’s reserves have been tapped due to “cuts being made across the board.”
, Manalo said the annual fireworks show was cancelled this year for budgetary reasons.
“We had to vote against the fireworks show,” said Manalo. “We don’t have $12,000 to spend.”
Manalo’s concerns were bared out by the numbers on a city issues handout. From the $7,054,190 in the general fund revenue, $7,051,143 went toward everyday city business and services.
General administration was the No. 1 source of the appropriated funds at $3,067,667. Administration includes labor, maintenance and the city’s insurance, etc.
More than $2.6 million was appropriated toward public safety, which includes the city’s contract with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and the Public Safety Commission.
Manalo described current and future budget cuts as “painful,” and later added, “We’re at the mercy of the economy until it gets better.”
Another portion of the 2010-11 general fund is restricted funds. Manalo said the City has no control over how the more than $4.5 million fund is spent. The set aside restricted funds are dedicated toward transportation taxes, per capita funds and assessments on property among others.
Redevelopment funds were also discussed at length, namely, the possibility that Sacramento may do away with statewide agencies, which allocate the funds for various city projects.
Manalo warned that Gov. Jerry Brown is likely to dismantle redevelopment agencies “any day now,” and that the city is trying to dedicate funds for projects within the year.
City Manager Maria Dadian pointed out that city staff places calls to Sacramento on a daily basis for the latest news on the status of the funds. She said Artesia has earmarked $1.8 million of its more than $9.9 million bonds and capital projects activities.
Manalo discussed the lion’s share of the funds, which nearly a third have been targeted toward the Pioneer Boulevard downtown revitalization. He also talked about the city’s rush to allocate the funds which may put them out of the state’s reach.
“We want to be prepared if the state decides to take the money,” he said. “If we move forward and tie up money in contracts, they may not be able to take the funds.”
The mayor added that a project the City has committed to is the purchase of land at 186th Street and Corby Avenue.
“We’re looking into converting that into parking for the Pioneer Boulevard project,” Manalo said. “We’ll be hearing from a consultant in the next few months. Residents can look forward to ground being broken and construction within the year.”
Dadian said another casualty of redevelopment funds being taken away would be staff pay. She said some city employees are partially paid through redevelopment funds, however, if the agency is eliminated, their salaries would be taken from the general funds.
The next town hall meeting will be held on May 18 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the . For information about the town hall meetings, visit the city's website.