HomeCity NewsStoneman, Budget Steal Show at Recreation Commission Meeting

Stoneman, Budget Steal Show at Recreation Commission Meeting

The San Marino Recreation Commission had a long Oct. 24 agenda, but focused primarily on the Recreation Department’s budget and the San Marino City Council’s decision to solicit architectural drawings for possible upgrades to Stoneman School.

The commission’s council liaison, City Council Member Steve Talt, spearheaded a majority of that conversation, which commenced with an update about Stoneman from city staff.

“If the bids are problematic then the city council reserves the right to reject those bids,” said Talt, who voted against the $2.4 million worth of ADA, health and safety upgrades to Stoneman. “We’re moving along very slowly and hopefully cautiously to make sure that whatever we do is going to be done appropriately.”

He asked, “Are we prepared to put out a request for plans when we’re not exactly sure what’s going to happen at this point?”

Talt responded to questions from the commission.

“We can continue there for a long time with what is there, yet it’s not going to produce the type of revenues that we believe are necessary to continue on with the type of program we’re running,” said Talt. “We want to do it right.”

After a few other agenda items, the discussion—partly fueled by the three residents who were in attendance—pivoted to the budget.

“Has there been any attempt to spread out the administration costs so we can get a true picture as to the cost recovery for each program?” Talt asked.

“It’s a moving target and our programs do ebb and flow,” responded Assistant City Manager Lucy Garcia. “We would have to assign some kind of value to each of those programs representing how much of the administration each of them might require.”

Why had the aquatic program recovered 99 percent and not 100 percent during fiscal year 2015-16 Talt inquired.

“A lot of the times that’s considered a public safety program, so while it may not recover 100 percent, it is something that as a community you want to provide to your community to make sure children learn how to swim,” responded Recreation Manager Rosa Pinuelas.

“But that has not been set at 100 percent cost recovery, I would guess, because of the costs of the pool are extremely high,” she added.

Pinuelas also stated that the department attempts to recover as much as it possibly can each year while keeping an eye on the fees of neighboring recreation programs.

“And once you explain it that way, it makes sense. And that’s the important thing. Just throwing numbers at people is never nearly enough. We have to tell people why,” Talt replied.

“Ultimately, we’re going to take a look at running this more like a business,” Talt added, suggesting that non-resident fees should be 15 percent higher than resident fees instead of the additional $5 currently paid by non-residents.

Recreation Commissioner Chun-Yen Chen, a long time member of the commission, sympathized with Talt’s cost-conscious approach, but came to the defense of the department after hearing Talt’s arguments.

“If you look at the history of all the budgets, from 2002 to 2015-16, I think [recreation staffers are] trying to do as much as they can every year to increase the recovery rate,” said Chen, noting numerous examples of cost-conscious practices. “The city’s recreation department—not just the business end—it’s for the service of our community. Sometimes, yes, you do have a cost, you have to pay because you want to keep our residents within our city.”

Chen also pointed out that the community’s recreation needs change from year to year.

The commission will meet again in January under its new chairperson, Raymond Woo.


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