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    Council Adopts City Hall FY 06 Spending Plan

    (Sept. 14, 2005) -- At its Sept. 13 meeting, the City Council voted 8-0 (Baker absent) to approve a FY 06 spending plan that (consistent with recommendations by the City Manager in a a Sept. 13 memo to Councilmembers) uses $600,000 from City Hall's operating reserve to fund a North Police Athletic League program, Library Youth Programming (not library hours)

    Six weeks of Municipal Band concerts and 4th of July fireworks will be funded outside the General Fund by a combination of as yet unspecified private contributions and sources potentially including part of LB's hotel bed tax; management says funding for two additional weeks of Muni Band concerts will be added through quarterly budget adjustments "if private donations are secured."

    Management's memo says the Nature Center's hours will be kept intact (closed one day a week, not two) by reducing its operational budget with only a "limited impact" on programming.

    The Council-approved budget closes LB's main and north branch public libraries two days a week (instead of one) and increases a number of City Hall fees. LB's water rates were separately raised by LB's non-elected Water Commission.

    As previously reported by, the budget is balanced in part by assuming $4+ million in rent will be paid by the Queen Mary operator (currently in bankruptcy) or its successor. (The Queen Mary operator denies owning any sum). In response to an inquiry by Councilwoman Rae Gabelich (seeking "words of wisdom" on the matter), Assistant City Attorney Heather Mahood said:

    Ms. Mahood: Obviously the issue is in Bankruptcy Court. We have submitted a claim for that much and more. So we hope to have it litigated in Bankruptcy Court or if there's a settlement, which may happen also is that someone else might come in and operate the Queen Mary then part of that settlement would be the payment of our rent, obviously that's subject to negotiations, but our aim is what the budget number is and that's getting our $4 million in back rent. That is our aim right now. If it changes, you will have to approve that, so right now our orders are to get that $4 million.

    The budget adds five police officers from LB's General Fund plus ten assisted by a federal taxpayer-paid grant. Earlier this month, LB Police Chief Anthony Batts told the Council that adding between 37 and 305 would produce varying levels of needed crime suppression. With voted Council approval earlier this year, city management has retained a consultant to recommend tax increase ballot measures that may have the highest likelihood of passage.

    Unlike last year, there were no Council moves to challenge adoption of the Harbor Dept. budget (to curtail Port advocacy contrary to Council-set policies). Prior to the Council budget vote, Mayor O'Neill called a "New Business" item out of order (added to the agenda after its initial posting Thursday afternoon) that pertained to a Harbor Dept. report on its Small Business Enterprise and Very Small Business Enterprise Program. LB Harbor Commission President (and former Councilwoman) Doris Topsy-Elvord spoke to the item personally from the podium as Port of LB officials Dick Steinke and Tom Poe sat in the audience.

    The Harbor Dept. item drew Council plaudits...and no Councilmember dissented on approval of the Port's budget as submitted. The Harbor Dept's FY 06 budget will send over $9 million in surplus Harbor Dept. revenue to LB's Tidelands Operating Fund (which includes the Queen Mary and other LB shorefront operations).

    City Hall's FY 06 budget was initially designated as the third year of a Three Year Financial Plan to end Council spending exceeding ongoing revenue...but has effectively become a Four Year plan. Management says the first three years of the Plan have reduced the structural deficit by a sum approaching $100 million through a mix of cost savings, fee increases, employee agreements and service cuts. Assuming no surprises during the fiscal year, City Hall's 06 budget leaves about $10 million in structural deficit to deal with next year...after 2006 city elections.

    A sizable portion of LB taxpayer spending now goes to cover city employee pension increases approved by the City Council in mid-2002, shortly after elections that returned Mayor O'Neill and several Council incumbents to office. After the Council voted to approve the pension increases, the Mayor and then-city management said City Hall faced a serious, mounting deficit.

    The FY 06 budget includes increases to run all Councilmembers' offices...except Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga, who requested a sum roughly $17k lower than last year (FY 06 figure: approx. $358k).

    Vice Mayor/5th district Councilwoman Jackie Kell will spend the least to run her Council office. She announced at the Sept. 13 Council meeting that she is lowering the sum she initially requested by $10,000 (to roughly $336k)...making her office the most frugal for the second year in a row (and her staff says for several prior years). With Kell's last minute adjustment, Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal became the second least costly Council office operation ($341k).

    The highest Council office budget belongs to Councilman Dan Baker ($431k). Councilwoman Laura Richardson reduced her office's initially indicated figure by roughly $60,000 to $418k Councilman Frank Colonna budgets his office at $414k with Councilman Patrick O'Donnell at $412k.

    The FY 06 budget includes $863,975 for the Mayor's office; in FY 05, it was budgeted at $805,431.

    City management doesn't set sums to run the Mayor or Council offices; the Mayor and Councilmembers do. However management has noted that these (and other City Hall) offices have incurred sizable increases in workers comp premiums and other costs not directly within City Hall control.

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