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Cerritos Council, With a Projected $8 Million in Lost Revenue, Looking at All Options to Cut City Budget

BY BRIAN HEWS • May 28, 2020

There were fireworks once again at last week’s Cerritos City Council meeting, and for no reason.

Cerritos, with Mayor Naresh Solanki at the helm, is looking more like the old days in Hawaiian Gardens when Barry Bruce was mayor of the city, yelling at Councilmembers when he did not get his way.

Mayor Solanki, who clearly does not like Councilmember Frank Yokoyama, shut down Yokoyama’s line of questioning concerning the city-owned Mullikan building with a series of angry questions.

Yokoyama inquired about the appraisal of the Mullikan building, which the City Council voted to execute during an April City Council meeting.

After City Manager Art Gallucci told the council, “we are waiting on the appraisal,” Solanki interrupted Yokoyama and asked, “why are we discussing the building, I do not want to sell the building, I do not want to sell the building.”

Yokoyama countered, “we ordered the appraisal we should look at all options.”

Solanki then erroneously stated, “nowhere in any of the slides tonight did we discuss the Mullikan building.”

Yokoyama pointed out that the Mullikan building was discussed during the capital improvement projects budget discussion.

Embarrassed, Solanki then shut Yokoyama down, “okay what are the next questions we are just going round and round here.”

Councilmember Grace Hu inquired about lost revenue which the city is still reviewing. The latest sales tax figures will be reduced by $4.5 million or 12-15%; the Transit Occupancy Tax will be reduced by $450K or 40%; and the CCPA revenue account will be impacted at over 50% or $2 million for a total of nearly $8 million.

The discussion then went into the Sky Knight Helicopter Program which cost the city over $500,000 per year. Gallucci indicated he talked to the Lakewood and was able to get $200,000 shaved off the cost; the proposal was going to be taken to the Lakewood City Council

Next up was the crossing guard expense related to the ABC schools in Cerritos, which is paid for by Cerritos. Under the California Education Code, school districts are not required to pay for crossing guards.

Hu asked if Cerritos discussed the expense with ABCUSD, Public Safety Manager Daryl Evans said those conversations have not resulted in any reductions. She thought that the ABC should share expenses but said the children’s safety is paramount.

Mayor pro tem Vo, along with Solanki, have made their intentions clear on the crossing guard budget, even though Vo has a child that attends school in the system

In 2017, Solanki voted to cut the crossing guard budget and was voted down by Hu, Yokoyama and Mark Pulido.

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

Vo talked about the crossing guards and then asked Evans a leading question, “you had mentioned that the Education Code did not require the district to pay for the crossing guards, is there any requirements that the city pay for the expense?”

Evans answered no.

After that discussion Solanki made a motion to have a discussion with the school district about the expense which was seconded by Hu. As Solanki tried to move on to the next agenda item, Councilmember Yokoyama interrupted and asked, “what happened to the public comment?”

Solanki asked City Attorneys Mark Steres, with Steres indicating they could comment on the items.

Yokoyama pointed out that the school district has no liability per state law, and it is the city that holds all the liability to protect the children. “If one Cerritos child gets hurt, because of a reduction in the safety provided by the city, that would be a very bad situation. It’s our legal liability to provide the crossing guards.”

The motion passed 3-1 to talk to the ABC, which has no obligation to pay for the expense; Yokoyama voted no.

Last up, and seven hours into the meeting, the Council discussed the city’s sewer rate. Currently the city’s rates do not cover the operating expenses of the utility, so the city must loan the utility money every year to cover the deficit.

The utility currently owes the city $9.8 million.

In order to break even the city must increase its rate from three cents per unit to $.31 per unit. Residents would see an increase from $6.96 per year to $75.60 per year.

The council voted to direct staff to hold public hearings to consider the rate increase.