By Mitch Lehman
San Marino Tribune
The San Marino City Council took another step toward finalizing its 2023-24 budget at a study session held on April 28.
The council heard presentations from leaders of the city’s police, fire and community services departments at the meeting.
Police Chief John Incontro led off, renewing his request for adding what he called three full-time and one half-time employees joining the force in the next year.
“These new officers will enhance our public safety,” said Incontro, noting that he intends to hire a new management analyst and a part-time records clerk. He also asked for funds to purchase nine new Flock Safety cameras to help with community surveillance.
“Flock cameras have done wonders for us and we are really looking forward to adding to our collection,” said Incontro.
Flock cameras are located on moveable poles throughout the city and are used to read license plates. The cameras can identify the license plates of any cars to see if they were used in the commission of crimes in the city or in adjoining cities that also use them.
The proposed police budget includes $8.3 million in personnel and $1 million in services and supplies, according to Incontro, and will increase the department from 30 full-time sworn officers to 32 full-time sworn officers.
Incontro and his staff have identified daylight hours when the staff numbers needs to be increased.
“We believe this is essential,” he said.
Incontro also said that officer Aaron Blonde will assist in identifying the location of the additional Flock cameras.
Community Services Director Kathi Johnson then reported on the Community Services operating budget of a projected $4.2 million, which includes the Recreation and Library Divisions.
“The mayor and City Council identified a priority initiative which is to rebuild a sense of community,” said Johnson. The priority initiative calls for expanding facilities with the grand reopening of the newly renovated Community Center. Because additional facilities staff are needed to operate and maintain the new building, she is requesting $133,000 for a full-time facilities technician position and $24,000 for an additional part-time maintenance assistant position, stated Johnson. To offset these new personnel expenses, staff anticipate an additional $270,000 in rental revenue, for a total Recreation Division revenue budget of $1.3 million.
“We will need someone who can guarantee that everything is working in the new San Marino Community Center,” said Johnson.
City Council member Calvin Lo compared the opening of the new center to a restaurant.
“We really need to open the center well,” said Lo. “It is important that we make a splash when we open.”
Steve Domier, a San Marino resident who was a member of the Recreation Department’s advisory committee, wrote a letter that was circulated among the council at the meeting in support of hiring the full-time technician for the San Marino Community Center.
Then it was acting City Manager Mario Rueda’s turn to present the proposed budget for the San Marino Fire Department, which he did with assistance of Division Chief Mark Dondanville. The Fire Department said they will propose a budget of $6.97 million, of which $6.26 million is slated for personnel with $711,710 earmarked for services and supplies. One of the SMFD’s newer expenses is a proposed new contract with Verdugo Wireless Communications. Dondanville also mentioned that there has been a large increase in the cost of emergency medical service supplies.
Paul Chung, the city’s finance director, said that he will come back to the City Council with a revised budget for approval on Wednesday, June 14, and that the revised budget will be posted on Friday, June 9.
Councilwoman Gretchen Shepherd Romey then adjourned the meeting in celebration of Earth Day.
Council Wraps Up Study Session on Budget
By Mitch Lehman