Lakewood City Council passes budget; reduces spending to remain balanced
The Lakewood City Council passed a budget which reduces spending to remain balanced while also maintaining key services such as public safety and recreation. The council's June 12 action on the two-year budget for Fiscal Years 2018-2020, which begins on July 1, 2018, addresses the long-term financial challenges that Lakewood, like many other California cities, is facing.
Financially, Lakewood is beginning to feel the pressure from several factors that have impacted other California cities in recent years. These factors include: Sacramento’s takeaway of local redevelopment funding (which now costs Lakewood over $2 million a year); the rising cost to California cities of retiree pensions because of the weakness of the state pension system; and the prospect of only modest sales tax growth as more shoppers go online for their purchases instead of shopping in Lakewood.
“We are ending the current fiscal year with a small surplus, but we can see a structural deficit forming in the future for our budget,” said Mayor Steve Croft.
“Maintaining a balanced budget every year is a very important value in Lakewood,” said Croft, “so the City Council directed our city manager, Thaddeus McCormack, to come up with a series of spending reductions to bring the budget into balance immediately for the coming two fiscal years. The reductions, and the maximum use of outside grant funds, are designed to minimize service changes for residents and to prioritize Lakewood’s traditional focus on public safety and recreation.”
“The City Council will also oversee an analysis starting this summer to find ways to keep Lakewood’s budget in balanced alignment for the long term,” said Croft. “We start from a good position of having healthy reserves to help us through a transition, but we want to quickly get to a fiscal situation where our budget continues to be reliably balanced every year.”
With its June 12 budget action and other recent actions, the Lakewood City Council has taken these steps to balance the city budget:
• Freeze or delay hiring for seven vacant city staff positions
• Reduce city spending for the two fiscal years that run from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2020 including:
--Tightening the scope and spending on city special events
--Reducing janitorial maintenance at city hall
--Reducing new tree plantings for residents and city land by 50%, but maintaining a priority for residential needs
--Deferring action for one year on the costly amending of the city’s General Plan
--Utilizing unspent surpluses in several public safety accounts
--Aggressively seeking and using outside grant funds to offset the use of the city’s general fund
The hiring freeze and spending reductions are designed to save the city approximately $2 million a year and provide for a balanced budget in the coming two years.
The Council has also instituted a comprehensive review of the city’s infrastructure repair and replacement needs over the next 10 years in order to best prioritize, schedule and budget for those needs.
Lakewood will maintain full funding for:
• Public safety programs, highlighted by Lakewood’s use of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, neighborhood watch programs, and civilian safety officers who carry out important tasks that free up deputies for more patrol time.
• Recreation programs for all ages, which have been a hallmark of Lakewood since the city’s founding.
An online version of the city’s new budget with changes approved at the June 12 council meeting is available at www.lakewoodcity.org/budget.