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Town Hall Meeting to Focus on Budget

First published in the Feb. 3 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.

The city of San Marino has scheduled its next town hall meeting for Monday, Feb. 7, when the annual budget will be explored in detail.
The virtual meeting will begin at 6 p.m. with a link available on the city’s website. Simultaneous Mandarin translation is available to viewers.
The meeting will include presentations from City Manager Marcella Marlowe and Finance Director Paul Chung, who will discuss the municipality’s annual budget process and ask community members to provide their feedback on priority initiatives for the coming year. Marlow and Chung will provide a summary of the adopted fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022, including the operating budget and the capital improvement budget. The city’s current budget is $41.1 million, which spans nine departments and includes 125 full-time equivalent positions including part-time employees.
Marlowe referred to the onset of “budget season,” which she said begins in late January and takes four months to develop.
“The process involves the whole organization, community and City Council,” she said. “During the budget process, we seek the community’s voices and involvement. These are pivotal in establishing any needs, wants and goals the city can implement and establish for the next fiscal year.”
Marlowe said the city faces challenges heading into the 2022-23 fiscal year that include inflation, the outcome of labor negotiations, the fiscal impact of COVID and large infrastructure capital projects including the San Marino Center and storm water and wastewater projects.
“During the budget process, the community will have an opportunity to offer ideas for priority initiatives and community goals for the next fiscal year,” Marlowe said.
San Marino’s adopted fiscal year 2021-22 budget received the “Operating Budget Excellence Award” by the Government Finance Officers Association and the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers, two governmental financial and accounting agencies.
“Over the past several years, our budgeting and reporting processes have gotten really tight, which is why we have so few variations on both the operating and capital sides of the house,” said City Council member Ken Ude, who is a liaison to the budget committee. “Moreover, we are on our third year in a row of clean financial audits with no errors or discrepancies. Finance Director Chung and Controller Mark Siegfried are doing a great job.”
Mayor Susan Jakubowski, the other council liaison to the budget committee, said she has seen “great improvements” to the budget process.
“Starting in 2018, we developed an intentional Capital Improvement budget and plan, in great part due to the work of Ken [Ude],” Jakubowski said. “Each year, a determined percentage of our year-end surplus from our Operating Budget is set into this special fund. It has allowed us to plan for and properly project ongoing costs for big-ticket items such as streets, sidewalks and sewers. With this plan and annual council review, Parks and Public Works Director [Michael] Throne operates with an ongoing list of clear priorities from the city council.”   
Jakubowski also pointed to new finance software, which she said provides “a tighter handle on our accounting procedures, including income-generating sources and long-term operational contracts.”
A detailed budget calendar that includes meeting dates will be covered during the town hall meeting.


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