No more July 4 fireworks show in Almansor Park? This, along with the elimination of funding for a Rose Bowl float and literary services, were among the preliminary budget cuts to the city's budget announced at at Tuesday's City Council meeting. They would have shaved a total of $2.1 million from the city's annual expenditures.
Emphasizing the need to keep Alhambra's budget balanced, City Manager Julio Fuentes said that the city must eliminate certain luxuries to prepare for a rise in operation costs. “We could have stretched the budget to keep some of those things, but we should be cutting back and adding more to the fund balance to make the city stronger," Fuentes said. “When we looked at what we’re providing, we felt that things such as police services and fire services had higher priority."
Cancelling the July 4 celebration would have saved the city $24,000 in materials, as well as $10,000 in overtime pay for personnel overseeing the event. But the City Council determined that it was too late in the year to cut the beloved tradition, which also attracts residents from other cities. The Council has not determined yet what cuts, if any, will need to be made to compensate for the annual display.
The proposed budget also eliminates $100,000 used by the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce to prepare the city's float in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses parade. Despite the cut in funding, the Chamber plan on going forward with its 87th float and has already started work on this year's entry. Titled "Bearing down the tracks," it will be an oversized teddy bear driving a locamotive.
"We have made a commitment to continue the long tradition," incoming Chamber of Commerce President, Mark Paulson, said. "While we will have a diminished budget we are moving forward with design concepts and the Chamber will be undertaking some fundraising activities throughout the rest of the year." He said that the float builder has been cooperating "because of a long-standing budget and it's our hope that next year the city's finances will be in better shape and they can once again contribute to the budgets.
Further cuts in the Chamber's operations, which had been considered by the city, were not discussed.
The library's literacy program, which provides one-on-one tutoring for adult residents, is expected to be eliminated as well. According to Fuentes, the decision came as the state halted funding for the program.
“The reason why the program started was because we’d received grant money,” Fuentes said. “Without the funding, we can't afford the services any longer. The people working in that program, we'll use them in a productive way. They will be helping with the librarian's operations.”
The proposed budget will also transfer seven full-time and 2.5 part-time city positions to the utilities department, a move that will save an estimated $704,000. An additional $438,000 will be saved as the city imposes a hiring freeze on positions that had been recently vacated. Councilman Luis Ayala, speaking on the reduction in salary pay, noted that workers are not expected to lose their jobs.
"Based on the analysis there are no layoffs," Ayala said. "The only change is that we won't fill those vacant positions, which we've been living with for the last couple years."
The Council will finalize the 2011-2012 budget before the start of the next fiscal year on July 1.
*Updated 8.55 am: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the fireworks would likely be cut and the Rose Bowl float eliminated. The Alhambra Source apologizes for the errors.