The San Marino City Council at last Wednesday’s meeting, as anticipated, adopted for the first time in its history financial policies that put the city on a solid fiscal foundation, but with one last-minute change.
The council voted 3-0 to adopt amendments to citywide financial policies regarding the reserve budget. The policies were first adopted back in November of 2017.
The council did remove an amendment that would’ve locked the city into setting aside 1.25 percent of capital reserves annually.
The three city council members on the dais were Susan Jakubowski, Gretchen Shepherd Romey and Mayor Steve Talt. Dr. Steven Huang and Council Member Ken Ude were not in attendance.
“I felt that, if we do the job we have been elected to do, and make sure that we are spending our tax money wisely, we do not need to be required to set it aside, but that investment in our reserve will happen as a matter of course,” Talt said in an email to The Tribune.
The 1.25 percent guarantee would have forced the council to examine budget reductions if and when required, according to Josh Betta, San Marino’s finance director.
Betta said the council deserves credit for adopting financial policies for the first time in the city’s history.
The policies now establish a single general fund reserve instead of multiple specific purpose reserves. The reserve balance will be about 40 percent of the city’s annual operating revenues. The current amount is about $11 million of the city’s approximate $23.5 million reserve balance, according to Betta. That extra $12.5 million was transferred last week to the capital reserve fund, Betta added.
“This is a big change,” Betta said during a telephone interview last week. “It’s a big deal. It’s also exciting to have the money available.” Betta also said this is a long way from the 2016-17 fiscal year when the city was down about $329,000 in the capital improvement fund, which is designed to pay for projects citywide.
“This is an exciting time for the city,” Betta said earlier last week. “I feel like a bulldozer over here. We are getting a lot of things done.”
Betta tempered the good news with a cautionary one, saying that a quarter of the cities statewide over the next few years are going to looking at bankruptcy.
“The work is never finished,” Betta said during an earlier interview. “We are on the right track, but we need to come to real terms on the financial stature of San Marino.”