Torrance Budget Issues
I had a great one on one meeting with our city manager to discuss non-tax revenue generating ideas, development, major cuts needed to balance the budget, growing our reserves, and the overall future of Torrance. We talked about expanding the once a year large item pick up to all residents including the ones living in rental apartments. I proposed this program in 2021, and I had suggested we fund it through the business licensing fees paid by the landlord. Just $20 a year per unit can fund the whole program. We also talked about modernizing our Libraries to allow people an automated way to check out and drop off books without needing full-time staff which cost us anywhere from $353,000 upwards of $3,000,000 per library, (We have 6 in Torrance). In this same conversation I mentioned the possibility of closing some of the libraries with the least amount of traffic. Some are as low as 17 guests per day. I would push to continue the senior and kid programs, but probably contract out the management of those programs to private operators. We also talked about contracting, and the importance of maintaining a strong Police Department and a dependable Fire Department. We talked about the need for the enforcement of all ordinances and laws including our Anti-Camping Ordinance. I expressed my push to always put safety and cleanliness as a top priority. We talked about planting more trees. We talked about deeper cuts within many departments, and upgrading some of our antiquated operations. We also talked about labor reductions through attrition and making lay-offs a last resort. And lastly I asked that we look for a better vendor for picking up abandoned shopping carts and figure out a way to have the retailers that own them, pay for that service.
Overall I’d say that our meeting was very productive.
I want to remind everyone that in order to cut the budget it takes four votes. Many times I have voted against excessive spending. One of the largest ticket items was the over $10 million dollar Public Safety pay increases. That No Vote was the hardest in my four years. I voted No because at that time we were over $8 million in the red, and projections were weak. I said it then, and I will say it again. My vote was based on affordability, not whether or not they deserved it.
Very often you will see my vote on spending being NO.
Torrance is in bad shape financially. We’ve been hit by a cyber-attack in March of 2020, soon after that the Pandemic started and much of our sales tax revenue dried up because of the shutdowns. Now we are experiencing shortages in vehicles which in turn makes it more difficult to sell cars. This is also another huge source of revenue for our city. The automobile and hotel industry seems to be bouncing back faster than expected. Our revenue exceeded projections by a few million dollars. This is a good sign.
We’ve made some significant cuts to payroll by keeping over 200 positions open, and yet we are still able to service our city. These jobs have been re-distributed temporarily and some may be permanently eliminated.
Our goal is to reduce overhead without reducing services. We can achieve this by integrating technology and new processes.
Over the last four years we’ve experienced things that could financially cripple just about any municipality, but Torrance is still here, and providing excellent service to its residents.
Our unfunded pension liabilities are a major part of our financial equation. I am a firm believer that we need to deliver on those promises, but a change in course is needed. I have had a sit down with our finance director about wanting to see a plan that over the years will convert all new hires to 401k programs and stop the bleeding once and for all.
I’d say the homeless plan I proposed on June 4, 2019 and voted in on June 22, 2021 was my proudest city council moment. Staff did such a great job of gathering the data, seeking the funding, and pretty much leaving no stone unturned. It took two years, but Torrance’s first ever Homeless Plan is now a real thing and just a couple of months from being implemented.
Yes, we have more work ahead of us. Rises in Crime, Homelessness, Deteriorating Infrastructure, Budget Shortfalls, Traffic, Overdevelopment, are all issues we need to battle every single day.
I am ready to keep fighting for a Cleaner and Safer Torrance. We as a city have made it through the storm. Our businesses are re-opening, our kids are back in school without having to wear a mask, our revenue is exceeding expectations, our streets are getting fixed, and we are planting more trees now than ever before.
We must restore and protect our quality of life.