The school board on Tuesday voted 4-1, with member Paul Naccachian dissenting, to send the bond proposal to the Nov. 4 statewide general election. The bond, which would pass on 55 percent voter approval, requires the creation of a citizens’ oversight committee and could not be used for teacher and administrative salaries or other school operating expenses, according to the proposition. Property owners would be taxed up to $60 per $100,000 of assessed valuation annually. The school board has been gathering information regarding the district’s facilities for years, received an overview of the district’s finances in January and selected architects and bond counsel at its June 10 meeting. A presentation from a June 9 board study session by MER Consulting included a breakdown of projects that were prioritized by the board, voters and the Local Control Accountability Plan.
The city council passed a barely balanced budget for 2014-2015, although rising retirement costs and decreasing revenues will put Azusa in a tough position by 2016. Azusa will finish the fiscal year with no reserves and anticipates a $129,000 surplus at the end of the 2014-2015 fiscal year. Service levels will be maintained and no layoffs are being implemented, which is the same as the 2013-2014 budget and a far cry from 2012-2013, when the city saw a $2 million deficit and a dozen layoffs. The police department continues to be the largest source of expenditures, with 60 percent of the $35.5 million general fund going toward public safety costs and the next highest portion, 17 percent, going toward general government costs. The city also will be allocating $70,000 for election year costs, $60,000 for contractual cost-of-living increases and a $209,000 increase in the fire service contract. Los Angeles County Fire can charge the city up to 5 percent annually of their costs above and beyond the contracted price. This is the same for about 15 other contract cities in the county. However, cities like Glendora and Duarte pay for their fire service out of the property taxes, which limits the cost increase on an annual basis. The fire department is enacting a 2 percent pay raise for firefighters as of July 1, and will enact another 2 percent raise on Jan. 1 2015.
The Baldwin Park City Council approved an $80 million budget on July 2, three months after the Council OK’d the city’s 2013-2014 fiscal plan. The 2014-2015 budget was passed on a unanimous vote two days into the fiscal year, showing a nearly $600,000 increase over the previous year’s budget. In March, the council voted 3-2 to pass the budget nearly nine months after the fiscal year had started.
The new financial plan adds two new city positions, reclassifies 16 other posts and provides funding for 70 sworn police officers. The city has 62 sworn officers, with two at the police academy. The budget as planned would set aside the funds to allow the department to hire at least six more officers throughout the fiscal year. Unfunded liabilities are the government-required accounting of the projected costs of retirees’ medical benefits, and the future debt was one of the major issues in passing the 2013-14 budget in March. The two positions that are being added are an economic development coordinator and an associate city planner. Of the 16 existing positions being reclassified, 14 are part-time positions where the employee currently works close to 40 hours per week anyway, Graves said. The changes result in an increased cost of $95,000 to the $24.9 million general fund.
The final tally has been completed for July 8th Chino election, which cost $192,000 and had only 9 percent of registered voters participating. All three land use measures won handily. Only 2,912 of the city’s 31,789 registered voters returned ballots in the all-mail election. The cost, at $64,000 for each measure, will be paid by each developer that requested a zoning change of voters. Measure M, passed by city voters in 1988, prohibits the City Council from rezoning non-residential land for residential land, thus increasing population density, without going to the voters first.
• Measure H proposed rezoning 11.6 acres south of Schaefer Avenue between Fern Avenue and Euclid Avenue. The council and Planning Commission both voted unanimously in support of the measure, citing a reduction of traffic, preservation of the neighborhood and increasing enrollment at Chino schools. Measure H received 1,705 yes (58.73 percent) votes and 1,198 no votes.
• Measure I proposed rezoning 9.2 acres at the east side of Central Avenue and north of Francis Avenue. Arguments supporting the measure included allowing large lots for “rural lifestyle” for residents, quality homes and providing customers for nearby businesses. It received 1,731 yes votes (59.71 percent) and 1,168 no votes.
• Measure J proposed rezoning 38.5 acres north of Eucalyptus Avenue between San Antonio and Euclid avenues. Arguments for the measure included eliminating dairy cow odors and connecting the area to the Chino Horse Trail. It received 1,671 yes votes (57.66 percent) and 1,227 no votes.
The City of Chino Hills has agreed to pay $560,000 to San Bernardino County for the former city yard so that Southern California Edison can use the site to build a transition station to bury the Tehachapi power lines. Edison filed eminent domain papers Monday for the site on Pipeline Avenue at Eucalyptus Avenue. The city will pay the county in five installment. The property was included in last year’s $75 million financial commitment the city made to Edison after being ordered by the California Public Utilities Commission to quantify what it was prepared to give to cover the additional costs of burying the lines in Chino Hills. The city exchanged the former city yard site in 2005 for the former sheriff’s station at Grand Avenue and Peyton Drive with San Bernardino County. The city anticipated building a community center at the yard site, but changed directions when the Tehachapi power line project prevented its construction. The former sheriff’s station site is now part of The Shoppes. The transition station will be located approximately 25 feet away from the Chino Hills Montessori School, which has been provided with Edison’s plans.
Nov. 4 election ballot measure granting the city the authority to finance a $55 million revenue bond if the acquisition of the Golden State Water Co.’s water system exceeds $80 million has been approved by the City Council. Based on existing water rates and charges, the bond would generate enough revenue to purchase the system for up to $80 million. Claremont is not required to take the ballot measure to a public vote, but it was a move to let residents weigh in, and to keep the process as transparent as possible. A resident’s comment and reiterated by a Golden State official claims the city can actually borrow up to $135 million in its takeover efforts. The calculation takes into account the $80 million and $55 million revenue bond. The council spent most of the meeting debating what several members called an “eleventh hour” proposal submitted to the city late Tuesday afternoon by Golden State Water and Claremont Affordable Water Advocates, a group of city residents. The proposal looks at potential alternatives, other than eminent domain, to see if there’s any way possible to try and find a compromise. In the proposal, the council was asked to postpone its decision on the ballot measure so the two sides could review 20 alternatives. The council could rescind its motion calling for a special election, if it believes there is a solution, but it has to do it prior to Aug. 13 which is the deadline from Los Angeles County to remove an item from the ballot. It is going to cost Claremont $75,000 to add their special election to the November ballot.
The City Council unanimously approved a $337,000 plan to have police officers watch for crime throughout the city using cameras that can pan, tilt and zoom-in on anything of interest. The expandable program initially will monitor five downtown locations, City Hall, the Police Department and the new Cougar Park from one location. The Police Department is working with the system’s provider, Leverage Information Systems, to determine how many cameras will be installed in the first phase. Police will retain recorded footage for 30 days to a year. Eventually, officials hope to use infrared cameras to monitor all of the city’s parks, school buildings and most heavily trafficked areas 24 hours a day.
Although the City has passed a balanced budget, El Monte continues to face a serious structural deficit, with revenue growth barely keeping up with inflation and expenses increasing by the millions every year. In an effort to remedy the longer-term issue, the city is turning to a fiscal sustainability plan that officials hope will finally bring an end to the financial woes El Monte has faced since the economic downturn. The fiscal sustainability plan, which staff hope will be completed by November, will help the City Council make decisions about what services the city provides and how it provides them. El Monte faced a $2.9 million deficit this fiscal year, but city staff managed to cobble together enough revenue thanks to unfilled staff positions, drawing funds from cash on hand and money carried over from last year. The deficit would have been even worse had voters last year not approved a five-year extension of the city’s half-cent sales tax increase, Measure GG. Measure GG is expected to provide $4.2 million in revenue this fiscal year — approximately 8 percent of all general fund revenue. Without it, sales tax revenue is expected to grow a mere $183,000 over last year. And the city’s overall growth in revenue over last year is expected to be 1.4 percent — less than inflation. City officials continue to blame the recession and the city’s reliance on the auto industry for the fiscal woes. And indeed city revenues have yet to return to pre-recession levels. For example, property tax revenue peaked in 2009 at $16.7 million; this year it is expected to be $16 million. Sales tax revenue is even worse: The projected sales tax revenue of $14.9 million this year (not including Measure GG funds) is far below the peak of $18.7 million in 2008. While most spending for the coming fiscal year reflects last year’s levels, the council did approve a slight budget increase for the economic development department. The additional $148,000 will be used to hire new people to assist with new development. The fiscal sustainability plan will study the economic potential of these pending development projects and provide a 10-year economic forecast for the city. On the expenditure side, the plan will study each department’s spending, as well as long-term unfunded liabilities, such as pensions and retiree health care. This year alone, the city is underfunding its retiree health care costs by $3 million. Management Partners, which has worked with other financially struggling cities such as Stockton and San Jose, will produce the plan. It will likely include 50-80 suggestions of how to help remedy the deficit, such as outsourcing some services or integrating technology into certain departments, and then city staff and leaders will determine which ones are most viable.
Waste collection rates will jump by 4 to 8 percent for residents and businesses in La Puente as trash hauler Valley Vista Services ups prices to offset new costs from closure of the Puente Hills Landfill. Valley Vista cited inflation and increased fees from the Los Angeles County Sanitation District as the reason for the hike. La Puente’s council passed the increase unanimously after Valley Vista agreed to provide more outreach to seniors who may be eligible for discounted rates. Under the new agreement, the annual price of residential services will increase from roughly $290 to $312, while commercial rates for a three cubic yard bin will go from $1,440 to $1,563.The price for larger commercial bins increased by 2 percent. La Puente’s 10-year contract with Valley Vista limits increases to three percent per year unless the trash hauler can show its costs have gone up more than 3 percent. In a letter to the city manager, Valley Vista Vice President David Perez indicated its costs per ton jumped by 20 percent and 56 percent for solid and green waste, respectively, after the closure of the Puente Hills Landfill. The landfill, the largest in the United States, closed in November. Since then, Valley Vista has hauled waste to the Puente Hills Materials Recovery Facility in North Whittier and absorbed the increased cost to do so. Even with the increase, La Puente’s rate stayed below most of its neighbors. The city ranked seventh in residential costs and fifth in commercial costs in a survey of trash rates in 14 surrounding cities.
The City Council added $75,000 to the $46 million budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year. A“status quo” budget was presented at a special session to council members. The budget, basically the same as 2013-14, is a balanced budget which contains several capital improvement projects, maintains city services and adds a few programs and personnel. The special session allowed department directors to give more details on various aspects of the budget, council members to ask questions and discussions be more in-depth before the council formally approved the budget at its regular meeting. There are 39 full-time sworn officers on the city force. Of the civilian staff, there are six budgeted part-time police aides serving as jailers. Whenever a jailer leaves for a full-time civilian or sworn position in another department or is off work, a regular policeman must assume jail duty. The $75,000 will enable the City to promote three part-time aides to full-time status and provide salaries and benefits for the promoted personnel. The new budget involves several capital improvement projects, including a new aerial ladder truck so La Verne firefighters can better suppress fires and rescue people from higher buildings; new cellular modems for police patrol vehicles, replacement of an obsolete license plate reader and addition of two more readers to get information to officers on the street quicker; installation of a traffic signal at D and Dover streets to improve traffic circulation and safety; and rehabilitation of city wells and reservoirs. Residential development projects include Wheeler Ranch Road, Live Oak Estates, Oakgrove Walk, Creekside, La Verne Village and the 36-unit Cedar Springs transitional housing project for David and Margaret Home. La Verne Village is a mixed-use project for 172 apartments and 15,000 square feet of commercial development at the old Person Ford dealership site at Foothill Boulevard and Bradford Street. The city also enjoyed new commercial development – Dollar Tree, Crunch Fitness and Petco – as well as new restaurants. Mr. D’s Diner, Lordsburg Tap House and Grill, Chase’s, La Verne Brewing Company and Jack-in-the-Box. Industrial developments include the Gilead Science Inc. pharmaceutical campus on Wheeler Avenue south of Arrow Highway.
With an expiration date nearing, the City Council is conducting a public hearing before introducing an ordinance calling for extending an agreement with a billboard company for 12 years. The existing agreement is between the city and Regency Outdoor Advertising. Until recently, the proposal called for allowing Regency to maintain 10 static billboards along the 10, 57 and 60 freeways and in exchange the city would receive $1 million. The report said the city learned earlier this month the Alameda Corridor East Construction Authority has concerns about one of Regency’s billboards. The authority notified the city a billboard to the west of the 57 Freeway is only about 12 feet from the path of a railroad track that will be built as part of a project to eliminate delays at a crossing in the area of Temple Avenue and Valley Boulevard. In the process of researching the matter, an authority representative also told the city another sign to the east of the 57 Freeway was moved about 50 feet without authorization between 2005 and 2011. If the agreement is approved, the money the city would receive would go into building the city’s reserves. The original agreement with the billboard company was approved in 1993 and allowed the construction of the 10 signs. That agreement was extended in 2004, the staff report said. Another company, Bulletin Displays, has objected to extending Regency’s agreement. Bulletin Displays is currently going through the process that could lead to a measure on the November ballot calling for overturning the city’s ban on billboard construction.
A 6 percent increase in the city’s 2014-15 operating budget has paved the way for the City Council to allow some increase in funds for improvement projects. The $69 million operating budget is $3.9 million more from the 2013-2014 fiscal year. Using gas tax and funds from San Bernardino County’s Measure I, the city will spend $4.2 million to repave or widen streets. Another $1.4 million will be used for railroad crossing improvements on Arrow Highway and Hellman Avenue. The city will use $1 million to improve traffic signals and upgrade traffic management technology. There will be new signals at Sixth Street and Utica Avenue and Carnelian Street at Banyan Street. Tree-trimming service is increasing by 67 percent from the 2012-13 budget and more funds are being allocated to repair sidewalks. Other city projects planned for this fiscal year:
• Wilson Avenue will be extended from Wardman Bullock to East Avenue. Construction is expected to cost $3.2 million,
• Final design of the 3.4-acre Southwest Cucamonga Park should be completed this year. The city received Proposition 84 grant funds to build the park on the east side of Madrone Avenue between Arrow Route and Ninth Street.
• A utility underground project will underground utilities on Base Line Road from Carnelian Street to Vineyard Avenue.
The southbound lanes of Lone Hill Avenue from Cienega Avenue to Arrow Highway in San Dimas was e closed to traffic July 8-15 because of a major construction-and-modification street project. The southbound closure begins the $1.6-million Lone Hill improvement project’s second phase and involves reconstructing Lone Hill from Cienega to 300 feet north of Arrow. The first phase began in April and included a five-day closure of Lone Hill’s northbound lanes from July 2-7. The third and final phase, set to begin in September, will widen the intersection of Lone Hill and Arrow. Drought-tolerant landscaping and newer, more efficient sprinkler systems in Lone Hill’s existing median will require less water and help the city’s conservation efforts. Taking into consideration environmental factors, the reconstruction of Lone Hill will use a process called full-depth reclamation. More closures will be announced later for the final phase — widening the intersection of Arrow and Lone Hill, adding a second eastbound left-turn pocket on Arrow and increasing the capacity of the left-turn lanes on Arrow by extending the pockets in both directions — that begins in September, a week after Labor Day. Completion is expected in mid-November for the total project paid for with municipal money from the gas tax, Proposition C’s countywide transportation tax and general fund capital improvement dollars.
SOUTH EL MONTE
South El Monte’s city council delayed a vote on an ordinance limiting hotel and motel stays in the city to a maximum of 30 consecutive days. The council tabled the ordinance just before a scheduled public hearing after receiving a letter from an attorney who threatened to take them to federal court if they proceeded. The ordinance would set a stay limit of 30 consecutive days or 60-days total in a six month period. It came about after an inspection of one motel found multiple families living in one room, according to City Staff. Critics claimed the limits would decimate small hospitality establishments that rely on long term stays and that it would force low-income families onto the streets. Members from various hotel/motel groups, including the chairman of the national Asian American Hotel Owners Association, attacked the plan as damaging to local businesses. The vote’s delay will give the city time to fix the ordinance in collaboration with those associations.
The Mayor of West Covina remains a hold-out over a proposed 48-unit townhome project that will take out 36 mature oak trees and possibly alter a streambed. There are continuing objections to the construction of several multi-story townhomes on what some describe as the last remaining piece of privately held open space in the city, wedged between Holt Avenue and East Garvey Road on the north, E. Oak Knoll Drive to the south and a commercial district to the west. The project includes three properties, 3228, 3238 and 3244 Holt Avenue located in a tree-lined corner of eastern West Covina.
Brandywine Homes and the Irvine Asset Group want to build 48 townhomes on the odd-shaped, 5.35-acre site just south of the 10 Freeway. Density will go from 2.1 to 4 units per acre to a designation allowing 8.1 to 15 units per acre. The project as configured will be 9.2 units per acre, records show.
The development was the subject of several public hearings in May before the Planning Commission, which approved the project by 5-0 vote. Neighbors on Oak Knoll and Joy Street had asked the commission for changes which were granted, according to city records. Namely, the commission and the developer agreed to replace a five-plex unit along Oak Knoll with a three-plex unit. The City Council approved the project, general plan amendment, a change to the East Hills Master Plan, a zone change and environmental document called a Mitigated Negative Declaration of Environmental Impact. If approved, the townhome project will add $33,000 a year to the city’s annual property tax revenue and the developer will pay a park-in-lieu fee estimated to be $525,600.
Martin Lomeli, the former city manager of La Verne, has been selected to serve as the interim top administrator for the next six months. In a special meeting on June 17th the council unanimously agreed to make Lomeli an offer as an interim city manager and directed the city attorney to negotiate a contract. He is expected to step in as the city’s interim top administrator on July 1. Lomeli, who began working for La Verne in 1981 and became the city manager in 1987. When he retired from La Verne in 2010, Lomeli’s annual salary was $195,000. He is no stranger to stepping in on an interim basis either. In 2011, Irwindale gave Lomeli a six-month contract for $90,000 to serve as the city’s chief executive. He only served four months in Irwindale and then a three-month stint as interim city manager in La Puente.
Retiring City Manager Stephen Dunn announced on May 27 he would retire after 13 years with the city. His last day will be June 30. Since the news of Dunn’s departure, the council held five special closed session meetings to interview and review candidates for the position. City leaders have said they expect the interim city manager to carry on with the recommendations of the Upland Fiscal Task Force which outlined 22 measures that aim to cut costs and create revenue through possibly outsourcing the management of certain departments and increase taxes.
Councilman Brendan Brandt has announced he is not seeking re-election in November.
Brandt made the announcement at the end of the Council meeting on Monday July 14th. He has been on the council for 12 years, first being elected November 2002. He won re-election in 2006 and most recently in 2010. Brandt serves as chairman of the Finance and Economic Development Committee and the City/School Committee.