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Lakewood Approves $68.2 Million Budget

 

Official seal of City of Lakewood

By Rico Dizon

The Lakewood City Council during its regular meeting last June 25 approved a $68.2 million budget for fiscal year 2013-2014 that ensures full funding and uninterrupted flow of all city services for residents foremost of which are public safety, quality of life and recreation programs befitting the “Sportstown USA” and “Playful City USA” awards.

City Manager Howard L. Chambers, said, “Lakewood residents will experience no cuts in service. “Our public safety programs will continue at their traditional full strength, including Sky Knight helicopter protection and a team of Sheriff’s Special Assignment Officers who handle hot spot issues.” The budget is also expected to continue multi-year programs for water system improvements, park upgrades and street repaving.

“We’ll also maintain our neighborhood preservation programs including tree planting and trimming, sidewalk repair, and code enforcement problem-solving team. “And befitting a Sportstown USA and Playful CityUSA designated city, we’ll maintain our full slate of award-winning recreation programs for residents of all ages,” continued Chambers.

Representing a share in the budget is $5.1 million in water system upgrades which will include enlarging two miles of residential water mains, constructing a treatment plant at well 22, and rehabilitating the 60-year old water pumping and storage plant 13. Community recreation gets $2.9 in park and community center improvements that include renovations to the Palms Park activity building, a new HVAC system for the Mayfair Park activity building, and the expansion of the West San Gabriel River Nature Trail for which Lakewood was recently awarded a $1.4 million California River Parkway grant. The City has set aside $2.5 million in street repaving and transportation projects in the coming fiscal year which will include repaving of Woodruff Avenue and the industrial streets near Long BeachAirport and repairs to Candlewood Street.

Among the focus areas for Lakewood’s budget is sustainability meaning the city will continue its tradition of frugality and careful management of its finances. This includes maintaining a “right-sized” staff (about 200 only) that has lasted for the past 15 years. The city will also continue its standard of efficiently contracting for many services which includes law enforcement, road maintenance, street lighting and tree trimming. Another area that the city has its eyes on is Public Safety.  It will maintain its historic high priority on law enforcement by fully funding programs that enhance public safety. Lakewood is one of a few cities to dedicate its resources to lift fingerprints from non-violent crime scenes that pays off in criminal apprehension and crime reduction. It was reported during the meeting that although there was a rise in property c rime at the beginning of the year, a high rate of apprehension ensued because of the community’s proactive participation that has now resulted in 3% reduction.

Promoting economic vitality is yet another focus area of the city’s budget which means keeping high level effort to encourage local business growth, including its innovative “Shop Lakewood, Stay Lakewood” Loyal Promotion Programs. Scheduled to open in Lakewood Center this fiscal year will be Round One entertainment complex, Applebee’s restaurant and continued improvements and additions to Lakewood Center mall. Other focus areas are support volunteer groups, foster sense of community, protect the environment, secure fiscal resources and hold on to local authority.

“The City starts in good financial shape,” Chambers said.

“The steady drain of funds by the state however will have an impact over time and will cause funding problems down the road. “We are starting to plan for that financial loss, continue to be cautious about our spending and being prudent about aligning what we charge for services with the actual costs we incur for those services,” Chambers continued.

Earlier this year city residents were notified that the city was considering adjustments in trash and water rates. As part of the overall budget package, those rate increases were approved on Tuesday night. Starting with bills in September, trash rates will rise by 27 cents per household while water rates will increase by $2.34 a month. In recent surveys of 10 neighboring cities, it was reported that Lakewood’s new rates were found to be 20% lower than the average rate in the region.

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