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Cerritos Council Increases Tree Trimming Budget, Solanki Votes to Cut Crossing Guard Funding

By Brian Hews

At last months Cerritos City Council meeting, the council approved the city’s overall budget and included items that some Cerritos residents were not happy about, even though the $6.6 million deficit left by Carol Chen and company was turned into a $1.1 million surplus.

Residents Jay Gray and Gail Grossman were particularly incensed about the $24,000 car allowance, which works out to be $400 per month, for each Councilperson and where the $1 million franchise fee paid by Cerritos’ trash hauler was going.

After public comment was closed, discussion was opened for the City Council with Councilman Naresh Solanki immediately asking about the City paying for crossing guards for ABCUSD schools.

“That came out of nowhere,” said one high-ranking City official.

Solanki stated, “we want to make sure the kids and parents are safe but I’m sure the school board has more of a budget then we do would it be possible to ask them to pay for it?”

City Manager Art Gallucci indicated that it would just take sending a letter to the school district to open a dialogue.

Mayor pro tem Mark Pulido said, “I’m not interested in that I am more interested in the city fully funding the crossing guards. How long have we been funding the crossing guards?”

Gallucci said, “since the beginning of the city.”

Solanki subsequently insisted that City Council write a letter to the ABC about the crossing guards.

Councilman Edward’s said,  “If this will just open a dialogue with them then I agree with it.”

The motion was made by Solanki and seconded by Edwards.

The vote was 3 to 2 in favor to send a letter to ABC with Solanki, Edwards, and Mayor Hu voting yes.

HMG-CN has learned that the letter was sent by Gallucci asking for ABC to share 50% of the crossing guard costs.

HMG-CN learned that the budget for the 26 crossing guards cost the City $327,000 annually.

Part of the package will include the funding from the state under the Safe Routes to School program.

California was the first state in the country to legislate a Safe Routes to School program with the enactment of AB 1475 in 1999.

Eight years later, in 2007, AB 57 extended the program indefinitely with funding provided from the State Highway Account.

According to the letter Gallucci was going to send the amount from SRTS at a later time so an equal amount for ABC and the City could be formulated.

The Council then tackled the City’s massive tree trimming budget.

According to staff there is 15,400 trees in Cerritos, including median and commercial areas.

At their current contracted rate, each tree costs $100 each to trim for a total cost of $1,540,000.

The current budget was set at $450,000, so the budget would have to be increased by approximately $1,090,000 to complete the trimming.

Staff also indicated that the current contractor might be able to handle the increased load.

Mayor pro tem Pulido asked that the budget be increased by $500,000; his motion was seconded by Councilman Yokoyama.

With this increase all trees would be trimmed by the end of the fiscal year, and the trees will be back on a four-year healthy trimming schedule.

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