City officials are currently projecting a $2.1 million revenue surplus for the fiscal year, thanks to a downturn in revenues being similarly offset by reduced expenditures from the same cause — the pandemic.
The city was on track after the first six months of the year to finish with $1.1 million fewer than initially anticipated in income, according to Finance Director Paul Chung. At the same time, the trend indicates that the city’s proposed expenditures will be down $1.4 million by the end of the year. In fact, expenses for the year’s halfway point were listed as being just 44.3%.
“We should be close to 50% expended, but we are tracking under, so at this time we don’t need additional appropriation from the council for the six months in the remainder of the year,” Chung told the City Council on Friday. “That’s of course because of the various COVID impacts for the first six months but…also projecting out for the remaining six months. At the end of the day, we should still have a surplus and not dip into our 40% reserves at the end of the fiscal year.”
Property taxes, as usual, are shouldering the load for the city’s income and posted a 4.4% gain year-over-year by Dec. 31 thanks to the steady growth of San Marino’s property values. City officials cautiously hoped this would keep the ship steady during the coronavirus pandemic much in the same way it helped the city weather the Great Recession.
“The revenues overall remain robust,” Chung said. “We’ve been fortunate that we didn’t have any huge impacts, but of course we’re not out of the woods.”
Chung added that he expects the city to recover significantly in the 2021-22 fiscal year, assuming that the state and nation successfully move forward from the pandemic and its resultant restrictions. This would bode especially well for the city because there are looming expense increases — agreed-upon pay raises and rising pension payments — that are likely to occur even if services are reduced as they have been.
“We should be able to catch up to some of the revenues that we weren’t bringing in,” Chung said, “but then on the expenditures side, we are expecting higher expenditures as well.”
Council members were broadly thankful for the frequency of Chung’s updates for the duration of the pandemic and for his work to ensure fiscal soundness for the city.
“Your reports just become more and more informative and I know there’s quite a bit of labor put into these,” Vice Mayor Susan Jakubowski said.
Council Signals Interest in Wayfinding Signs
As part of a branding effort that stems from the city’s Economic Development Team, the Community Development Department will explore procuring a number of signs directing motorists to any of the four identified economic centers of town.
Three of these districts — the Titan District, City Center and the Oak Knoll District — will be along Huntington Drive, while Mission Village runs along Mission Street and into South Pasadena. These wayfinding signs will help direct visitors to the different commercial areas in town and help build their identity, according to department staff.
“The signs will direct to these specific shopping districts and it will help create an identity that will help them market themselves,” explained Stephanie Britt, a management analyst for the city.
Hunt Design helped the city identify the districts and produced a design utilizing the city’s aesthetics that was unanimously approved by the Economic Development Team. The project now goes to bid and will solicit at least three bids before considering a fabrication and installation contract. The project is currently itemized at $75,000 total.
“I think they’re essential,” Britt said, in response to a query from Mayor Ken Ude. “You see this in many cities — Pasadena, Santa Barbara. If you want to create a sense of district identity and guide people towards these shopping districts, they are essential.”
Corina Madilian, who owns both Single Stone and Serafina on Mission Street and is a member of the Economic Development Team, emailed a public comment praising the move and added she was excited for the development.
“We feel it’s extremely important to create shopping districts that are defined and easy to find. We’re extremely supportive of creating walkable neighborhoods that promote family living in San Marino,” she wrote. “It is important for us to recognize the importance of developing a strong community in our neighborhoods that incorporates our residential and commercial districts. As we move toward the reopening of our shops and restaurants, it is important that we develop San Marino’s commercial districts to encourage our residents to support local living — shop local, dine local.”
The council unanimously approved moving forward.
“I think our local businesses and residents would benefit, as well as people getting around to see” the city, Councilwoman Gretchen Shepherd Romey said. “Some of our roadways are not exactly a straight line, so it would be helpful to many.”