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By Brian Hews
The Cerritos City Council once again held a public meeting to address the city’s budget deficit, proposed budget cuts, and placing a one percent sales tax on the March 2017 ballot.
They once again moved to continue the meeting until Oct. 27.
Following Budget Director Ryan Carey’s summary of the proposed cuts, Mayor Ray initiated the question and answer session after which Mayor pro tem Naresh Solanki spoke.
Strangely, his first question was why did he hear from residents, rather than staff, that the deficit had increased $800,000.
Carey explained that the City purchased property, which was approved by Solanki and the Council, and that caused the deficit to increase.
An angry Solanki pressed Carey further as to why the residents knew before Council about the increase.
City Manager Art Gallucci chimed in explaining once again to Solanki that items approved by the Council caused the deficit to increase.
Solanki then went after the Sheriff’s budget. “We are paying $281 per person, other cities are paying $160, are we getting $6 million more in safety?”
“We believe we are,” said Gallucci, we have our own station and assets.”
Solanki then cited a study that indicated Cerritos was 16th in crimes in Los Angeles, while other surrounding cities were lower.
Public Safety Manager Darryl Evans explained to Solanki that the Los Cerritos Center accounts for 19% of the crime in Cerritos, which skews the numbers.
“The numbers are higher because we draw more shoppers to the area,” said Evans.
Solanki would not let up, “we pay $6 million more yet we are less safe, why is that?” Adams once again explained the LCC attacts 2 million shoppers per year.
Solanki then went after the tax increase. “I have a real problem with the tax increase how do we know where the money is going?”
“We can’t spend money without your approval,” Gallucci said.
Mayor Ray then quickly opened the meeting to public comment.
George Shy spoke and was opposed to the sales tax. “Allow the citizens to pick the services they want.” Shy wanted the Sheriff’s and the infrastructure as first and second choice, then go from there.
Katherine Chu spoke and was opposed to the sales tax increase but wanted to keep public safety. Chu also did not want to cut parks and recreation staff.
Former Mayor Sherman Kappe then spoke and said, “we need to raise revenue or cut expenses.” He was in favor of placing the tax on the ballot. He hoped the people of Cerritos would pass the tax and was in support of the tax increase.
“The tax revenue will stay in Cerritos and benefit the residents and the City, Kappe said.”
Former Assemblywoman Sally Havice pleaded with the Council not to cut the Cerritos Sheriff’s Station.
Rich and Rosalie Barber were both concerned about the cuts in Public Safety. “We are seeing an increase in homeless people, we have to address mental health issues.”
Resident Anantha Narayanan said, “We need out-of-the box thinking and better leadership.” He pointed out key expense items that totaled over $12 million. “Some of the increases are obvious to me some are not. Get out of Magnolia Power Plant, 10% across the board cuts in city administrative costs, privatize the CCPA.” He was not in favor of the tax increase.
Retired ABCUSD school board member Celia Spitzer had “no position on supporting the tax but wanted to let the people decide.” Spitzer did not want to see things cut, but warned about trying to pass the tax, she also wanted a sunset clause on the tax.
Elaine Shiohama said she was for the budget cuts and against the sales tax. “We can’t afford the services we have had in the past, and many of my Cerritos friends feel the same.” She was in favor of cutting the Sheriff’s Station, “maybe we can cut and actually get more services from Lakewood.”
Resident Effren Baca was in favor of the tax increase, “the safety that you get here is outstanding, this is a great city.”
Hugo Enciso asked to increase the fees at the library and parks and recreation citing census statistics that point to many people coming from other cities. He was in favor of letting the people decide on the tax with a sunset clause.
Ernie Nishii was in favor of the Sheriff’s and the library and the “great services this city provides. But if you want to keep the services you have to pass the tax or cut expenses.”
Chris Tierheimer was in favor of the tax and said “good isn’t cheap, and cheap isn’t good.” He told Solanki in reference to the Sheriff Station, “you get what you pay for.”
Su Casa Boardmember Gail Swensson thanked the Council for giving money to Su Casa domestic violence center. “The cuts will impact victims and many others.”
Mark Boseman agreed with HMG-CN’s opinion that Cerritos has a $100,000 housing advantage and its is “worth a penny to keep those values.” He thanked City Manager Art Gallucci’s leadership throughout the years.
Resident Jay Gray was against the sales tax, and was worried about where the money was going to be spent.
Gavin Riley was against the budget cuts and made a very eloquent speech about contributing. He was for the tax saying, “taxes are the price of a free society.” He told the Council that due to the low property taxes in Cerritos he has conservatively saved $100,000. “It is time to give back.”
Dan Ursery, born and raised in Cerritos and a Cerritos High graduate, proposed a town hall meeting with the City Council “to see where the Council stands, we want to hear your ideas.”
After the public comments, city council members spoke on the issue. Mark Pulido thanked the residents for their public comment. He wanted to put the tax on the ballot and let the people decide. “If your against it great then vote against it. I am not for a new user utility tax or property tax, we have to think big, let’s bring it out to the electorate.”
Jim Edwards also thanked the residents and agreed with Pulido that the tax should be put on the ballot for the residents to decide. “We have to step up to the plate, I am willing to pay the tax, we have one of the best cities in the state. It is worth it to keep the recreation programs and organizations like Su Casa that make this City great.”
Councilwoman Carol Chen started by saying, “I am the only official who has been here during the seven budgets that were in deficit. Chen cited the “great work Gallucci and his staff have done.” Chen wanted to take a hard look at the Magnolia Power Plant, as did Mayor Ray.
Ray also called for a town hall meeting between residents and the Council, but according to officials, a special meeting of the Council must be scheduled similar to a regular Council meeting.
Several residents said they were “all for that meeting.”
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