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By Brian Hews
This Thursday’s Cerritos City Council meeting is certain to have controversy, as the Council will consider potential cuts to the $101.7 million operating budget.
The cuts have been necessitated by the impact of the redevelopment dissolution which has reduced the city’s reserves by $27 million over the past six years, reducing the general fund from $80.6 million to $53 million for the current year.
Thursday’s agenda contains several reduction proposals with the corresponding budgetary impact.
What is certain to draw major attention is the proposed elimination of the SkyKnight Helicopter Program and converting the Cerritos Sheriff’s Station to a local area station.
The proposed cuts were placed on the agenda by Councilwoman Carol Chen and Mayor pro tem Naresh Solanki after they unsuccessfully tried to hold up budget approval at a prior meeting by unexpectedly proposing the closure of the Station. They were voted down 3-2 at that meeting.
The proposed cuts would save over $3.3 million but “safety and response time in the City will be compromised,” as all Sheriff’s would be dispatched from the Lakewood station.
Mayor George Ray and Council members Jim Edwards and Mark Pulido blasted Chen and Solanki at the meeting for suggesting the cuts to the Sheriff’s station.
Pulido reminded both Chen and Solanki that they campaigned on community safety and said, “it would be a non-starter for me if we cut the Sheriff’s station.”
Edwards agreed and Mayor Ray said, “we need to have a discussion on this, our residents should have input on this, I am not for cutting the station.”
Other cuts include City Commissions; many Cerritos residents have complained for years about the commissions that operate within the City.
The Planning Commission is a well-known tool used by Council members to appoint commissioners who will eventually run for Council.
All Commissioners are paid some sort of stipend for attending meetings, costing the City over $50,000 per year.
Consequently, the City is proposing eliminating the following: Fine Arts and Historical, Economic Development, and the Parks and Recreation commissions.
Another controversial cut will be the proposed 50% reduction in City subsidies to community groups, saving the city $78,000.
The cuts would severely impact the Cerrito’s Regional Chamber of Commerce, Community Family Guidance, Pathways Volunteer Hospice, and Su Casa.
The Cerritos Senior Center will not be immune to scrutiny as the city is looking at reducing the scope of many programs and eliminating the Senior Fitness/Wellness Series and Senior Health Fair for a savings of almost $21,000.
The City is also proposing cuts to major programs and services that the Recreation Division provides to residents: Festival of Friendship, Volunteer Recognition, Easter Egg Hunt, Community Spring Festival, Swim Center Safety Expo, Let Freedom Ring Celebration, 9/11 Evening of Remembrance, Community Bike Ride Event, and the Halloween Festival for a savings of over $78,000.
A proposed $282,000 cut to Cerritos Library will mandate closure on Friday evenings and on weekends.
Finally, the City is proposing withdrawal from the Magnolia Powerplant Organization, ceasing operation as an electrical utility while also considering the potential lease of the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts to a private operator, ending direct City involvement in the daily operations and programming of the CCPA. Both are listed as savings “To Be Determined.”
$4.211 million in savings would be realized if all cuts were implemented, with the closure of the Cerritos Sheriff’s Station accounting for 78% ($3.3 million) of the total cuts.
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