The San Marino City Council unanimously agreed to form an ad hoc committee to develop a long-term financial plan for the City of San Marino. Future councils would use that plan going forward to stay on the right financial track, according to Interim City Manager Cindy Collins.
The council appointed Mayor Richard Sun and Council Member Steven Huang to serve on the committee. The council also appointed five advisors to the committee, including Collins, as well as City Treasurer Marina Wang and Contract Finance Director Misty Cheng. To fill the two remaining advisory seats, Sun and Huang will nominate two members of the community who possess a background in financial planning.
“Interested community members would submit a letter outlining their experience in financial planning to the council ad hoc committee members,” explained Collins. “The committee members will interview and select the candidates to be approved by the full city council,” she noted, adding that the committee should be able to develop the long-term plan in about four to six months. “The development of a long-range financial plan will require a team effort.”
Collins provided council members with a background of the financial challenges that face the city prior to the council action.
“Over the past two months the city council has been presented and discussed the two most major financial issues facing the city,” Collins stated, noting the city’s unfunded pension liability and aging infrastructure.
The council heard a presentation from an actuarial firm regarding the city’s CalPERS, or pension, liability at a special city council meeting on Feb. 16.
Specifically, Collins said, the council heard “a comprehensive review of long range expected increases in the unfunded liability over the next 30 years.”
“They also provided potential options available to pay the increasing debt. A five-year revenue forecast was presented by the city’s contract finance director at that meeting as well,” she continued.
Collins added, “The city currently contributes approximately $1.2 million per year toward current contributions and another $1.4 million to pay toward the $20 million unfunded liability.”
Collins referred to the city’s aging infrastructure as an “ongoing financial demand on the city’s finances.” She noted that the increased annual infrastructure cost would be as a high as $4 million per year.
“The ambitious budget cost presented would efficiently maintain and improve the city’s infrastructure through timely repair and restoration,” she said.
The newly-formed ad hoc committee follows the city’s ad hoc budget committee, which submitted its recommendations to the council in January after a year of research and interviews with the city’s administration and parks and public works departments.
Public, Education and Government Fee
The council approved an urgency ordinance to continue to collect a one percent public, education and government fee from the city’s state franchise video service providers. The current ordinance is set to expire at the end of the month, according to the Assistant City Manager Lucy Garcia.
“If the fee is not reauthorized by the city council, the city will lose its PEG funding. What the loss of the funding means is that the city does jeopardize its ability to host a government channel,” said Garcia.
Interim City Manager Collins noted that the city has not programed the government channel, Channel 19, for several years, but may have an opportunity to utilize those funds in the near future.
“It was brought up by Council Member Huang that on Mar. 31st he’d like to put this item on the council’s ‘Making San Marino Better’ list to look at the potential of what it would take to begin the filming of council meeting and making them available on the website with the restricted use of these funds,” Collins said, noting that the funds can only be used to purchase capital equipment.
Huang explained that the use of the funds could simply go toward the purchase of an iPad and tripod, coupled with the use of Facebook Live to broadcast council meetings.
Council Member Steve Talt explored the idea of eliminating the fee, which Steven Flower, a representative with the city attorney’s office, confirmed gets passed on to the consumers.
“We’ve been getting that money for a long time and provided nothing in return. It is time that we get our act together or we’re just taking money from our residents,” Talt said.
The city has collected approximately $30,000 in revenue each year because of the fee.
Noting the typically expensive cost of capital equipment, Flower explained, “It’s not uncommon for cities to spend time building up that fund in order to make a capital expenditure.”
City Manager Search
As reported in last week’s Tribune, the San Marino City Council unanimously approved a $23,000 contract to hire Frank Rojas of CPS HR Consulting to initiate the candidate search process for a new permanent city manager.
Mayor Richard Sun and Vice Mayor Richard Ward recommended the firm after they conducted interviews with four executive hiring firms.
CPS HR Consulting submitted the lowest bid of the four firms that were interviewed. The final cost will be at least $6,000 less than the initial expected cost.
Record Retention Schedule
The city adopted a new record retention schedule and electronic communications policy.
According to acting City Clerk Carol Crowley, the development of a retention schedule was initiated by City Clerk Veronica Ruiz and has been two years in the making.
“Having policies to address these issues are essential to properly maintain the city’s records,” Crowley said. “The policies provide a clear-cut scope for governing all records created or received by the city.”
Library Board Updates Council
The Library Board of Trustees provided the City Council with an update of the latest happenings at Crowell Public Library.
The two bodies met in the Emergency Operations Center behind city hall on Mar. 8, where Board President Linda Mollno expressed her gratitude to the council on the board’s behalf.
“I really feel like we have a good working relationship with the city council. I’m not sure that every public library can say that,” said Mollno, thanking City Librarian Irene McDermott and her staff.
“I think we all feel the importance of the library to our city and to the residents,” she added, also thanking the Friends of the Library and the Library Foundation.
Mollno informed the council that the library has collected $96,000 from passport renewals so far in the current fiscal year. The revenue constitutes a little over a third of the library’s revenue.
She also stated that over 7,000 of San Marino’s 13,000 residents have library cards.
Trustee Sue Boegh shared the board’s efforts to review and edit the library’s policies, as well as house them in one, easily accessible location on the library’s website.
“Our policies all end with ‘Violation of this policy may result in the loss of some or all library privileges.’ And other libraries around us are very quickly adding lines like that to protect themselves,” said Boegh.
Trustee Oscar Chien told the council about programming, while Trustee Liz Hollingsworth updated the council on her efforts to close the communications gap between the library and the school district.
Trustee Eldon Swanson explained the library’s near-future purchase of a radio frequency identification system, which will make checking out books and stock management of library items easier for library patrons.