The San Marino City Council held at special meeting Wednesday, March 27, in the Crowell Public Library’s Barth Community Room to discuss fiscal year (FY) 2020 department operational expenditures for the fire department, emergency management and police department. The presentations were an opportunity for the council to provide feedback to the city manager on which expenditures should move forward for approval in the proposed FY20 budget. The proposed budget will be presented at the end of May.
For the fire department, personnel costs proposed for FY20 are $4,803,509, an increase of $324,744 from the FY19 budget. The estimated actuals for FY19, based on expenditures through Feb. 28, is $4,987,196, making the difference to FY19 estimated actuals a decrease of $183,687. The changes in budget include step increases in pension normal costs and budgeting for special pays not previously budgeted for staff, Workers Comp estimated claim costs attributable to fire employees, and amortization of unfunded pension liability.
For services and supplies, the cost proposed for FY20 is $707,282, an increase of $33,380 from the FY19 budget. The estimated actuals for FY19, based on expenditures through Feb. 28, is $581,876, making the difference to FY19 estimated actuals an increase of $125,406. The changes in budget reflect annual EMS supply cost increases and the estimated cost of Shared Fire Command in FY19 being higher than the budgeted amount.
Over the next fiscal year, Fire Chief Mario Rueda plans to conduct an audit and inspection of the department, taking a look at the status of all programs, equipment, quarters and assets. This will carry no budget cost.
“It allows us to forecast for the future what requirements that we may have that need to be met in the budget,” said Rueda. “It also provides us an opportunity to audit ourselves to see that we’re doing everything we say we do.”
Rueda noted several other planned programs that also carry no cost, including developing a “Citizen Fire Academy” upon reviewing the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) courses and implementing a new “Water Watch” program to help prevent juvenile drownings. He shared that other than purchasing an additional Zoll Autopulse automatic CPR device to come from the capital improvement program budget, there are no other special one-time cost requests.
“We do run a very conservative budget,” said Rueda. “Last year, we were running out of money in our account that maintains our firetruck and that’s a problem. That’s a non-starter.”
For emergency management, the costs for services and supplies proposed for FY20 is $55,032, a decrease of $6,550 from the FY19 budget. The estimated actuals for FY19, based on expenditures through Feb. 28, is $21,521, making the difference to FY19 estimated actuals an increase of $33,511. The changes in budget reflect a correction of billing in the fire department operations telecommunication budget, leading to a decrease of $7,400 in the FY20 emergency management budget. The $7,400 has been relocated to the fire department budget. The telecommunications budget will also include a Spectrum Cable subscription for the Emergency Operations Center, leading to an increase of $850 in the FY20 budget.
Rueda detailed plans to complete and upgrade the Emergency Operations Center and conduct staff training, as well as conducting an emergency operations exercise with city staff, department heads and the school district “in a more inclusive way.”
Within the police department, personnel costs proposed for FY20 is $6,040,475, an increase of $689,193 from the FY19 budget. The estimated actuals for FY19, based on expenditures through Feb. 28, is $5,334,381, making the difference to FY19 estimated actuals an increase of $706,094.
The changes in budget include a priority initiative to add two officer positions to the current total of 28 full time positions. The enhanced staffing resources for the department results in a $294,310 increase for the FY20 budget.
Police Chief John Incontro laid out plans to eliminate a corporal position currently within the detective bureau and move an officer into that spot, changing the position into a sergeant. The sergeant will be able to handle additional workloads due to changes in transparency laws and will work to “ensure officers are acting appropriately” through video recording, according to Incontro.
“We believe that changing that corporal position to a sergeant and creating an administrative sergeant position will also enhance our ability to serve the community and also to ensure that our administrative function within the department is operating smoothly,” said Incontro.
The department also plans to upgrade a part-time dispatcher, who also serves as a clerk, to a full-time position.
“They would be able to provide better customer service to those coming to the station, reduce time that a community member has to wait for the officer or to be served, it would help our dispatcher handle calls for service and also they would be able to fill in any vacancies due to vacation or sick when a dispatcher calls in instead of what we’re doing now is removing an officer from the field to do that same function,” Incontro shared.
The topic of vacancies within the police department was also discussed. Council Member Ken Ude pointed out that before adding additional full time positions, more research should be done into resolving why officers were leaving for other departments.
“I would say let’s solve the pipeline issue but not go from 28 to 30,” said Ude.
Vice Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey disagreed with Ude, supporting Incontro’s request.
“This is giving him the ability to manage his department so that will reach the correct number of really working officers and if it is necessary to do that, then I think that that makes sense because we’re constantly in a battle of recruiting,” said Shepherd Romey.
Upon questioning by the council on the rate of vacancies, Incontro shared that the department has had an average of five officers leaving per year over the past two years. Three years ago, it was an average of two.
There a variety of things that can be done,” said Incontro. “There are things we’re looking at within the organization and working with the Police Officers Association [POA] to make this a more enjoyable place to work. We are looking at our training opportunities and certainly negotiations between the city and the POA may result in something different that could be considered positive.”
At the conclusion of the discussion, the City Council supported the corporal position and the full-time dispatcher position. A motion to support the increase in personnel to 30 was supported by Mayor Dr. Steven Huang, Council Member Susan Jakubowski, Council Member Steve Talt and Shepherd Romey with Ude voting against.
On Monday, April 1, there will be budget presentations for the Planning and Building Department and the Parks and Public Works Department from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Crowell Public Library’s Barth Community Room. The monthly town hall will follow in the same location starting at 6 p.m. The city’s process for managing and preserving trees on properties will be discussed.