Ted Lieu visits El Segundo council; ESFD Chief Smith retiring
The City Council Tuesday night received a proposed preliminary budget for fiscal year 2015-2016 that dips slightly into reserves in order to balance but also contains some hopeful signs.
The budget, which was discussed more thoroughly at two strategic planning meetings in August, showed a gap in expenses over revenue of about $1.2 million, which was met with excess general fund reserves beyond the city’s 19 percent requirement. City’s expenses were slightly more than $64 million, while revenues were $62.8 million.
“Essentially we were able to use the fund balance to be able to balance the general fund in and of itself,” interim finance director Misty Chen told the council.
Chen also pointed out that while most revenues project as flat, a few did show promising increases, including a $650,000 increase in hotel bed tax due to four new hotels coming online this year and a 1.1 percent increase in property taxes due to higher home values in the city.
City Manager Greg Carpenter’s written budget message noted that property tax growth within the city is at an all-time high due to increased valuation citywide, with this year’s median price 6.6 percent higher than 2014. He also wrote that sales and use tax are expected to increase 17.4 percent due to the opening of The Point shopping center and the Elevon creative office and restaurant as part of Campus El Segundo.
But Carpenter also sounded a cautionary note.
“We have prepared a balanced budget….however, the City is faced with the ongoing challenge of preparing future budgets with less than robust revenue growth and rising operating costs,” Carpenter wrote. “Ensuring that current levels of service and community needs are met will require creativity, leadership and consensus.”
The council moved final consideration of the budget to a special Sept. 28 meeting, at which the Top Golf proposal for use of the driving range at The Lakes in El Segundo will also be agendized for possible approval.
Congressman Lieu visits
U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu made a visit to City Council Tuesday night. He briefly discussed his successful effort to convince the Federal Aviation Administration to extend a time limit for El Segundo residents eligible for its residential sound insulation program, which ensured 191 homes that needed to rebid due to excess costs, could still be insulated from airport noise.
“I’m happy to hear we are going to be able to insulate those homes,” Lieu said.
Mainly, however, Lieu wanted to let local residents know that his office was prepared to assist with any constituent needs. He said that since taking office in January, he changed its staffing to allow a 400 percent increase in field staff.
“We helped a young child dying from cancer get an emergency passport to go see the wall in Jerusalem,” Lieu said. “We have helped people procure funds from Social Security, from Medicare. So when people need any help, contact my office, and we’ll help.”
“You really are a native favorite son,” Mayor Suzanne Fuentes told Lieu. “I think most people feel a connection to you, out there working for us.”
ESFD’s Chief Smith retiring
City Manager Greg Carpenter made what he acknowledged was a bittersweet announcement near the end of the meeting, noting that it would be the last time El Segundo Fire Department’s Kevin Smith would be in attendance as chief. Smith is retiring at the end of the month, Carpenter said.
“He did not want me to say anything, but I couldn’t let 30 years of service go by,” Carpenter said.
Smith has served ESFD for thirty years, the last ten as chief.
“I know he’s very proud of his people, and his department,” Carpenter said, looking towards the back of the council where Smith sat. “I thank you for your leadership, your service, and for your friendship.”
Mayor Suzanne Fuentes expressed hope that Smith would come to council one last time for a short public ceremony to formally recognize his service.
“Thank you for your service,” Fuentes said. “You are one of the most kind, giving men that I know. You are such an asset to El Segundo. I wish you every happiness and success. And I wish you’d come back for one more meeting.”
Smith, low key to the very end, responded simply and quickly.
“It’s been an honor,” the fire chief said. “Thank you very much.”
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