El Monte conference details woes caused by state budget cuts
Frustrated by the state’s recent raids on local funds for public safety and transportation, El Monte held a San Gabriel Valley "state of the region" conference Thursday, emphasizing the effect California’s budget problems have had on the region’s 47 cities and communities.
Eight speakers, including Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, county Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman and El Monte Police Chief Tom Armstrong spoke at the conference, held at Los Angeles County Fire Station 166.
“It is inherently unfair for the state to continue taking resources from a community that has balanced its budget when they can’t even deliver a balanced budget on their own,” said Armstrong, who said his department has absorbed a 22% reduction in officers and civilian personnel since 2005.
El Monte Mayor Pro Tem Patricia A. Wallach and other city officials spoke about recent reductions in public transportation, and job and school programs in the San Gabriel Valley. Wallach said the midyear raids on funds force local agencies to restructure budgets unexpectedly.
City Manager Rene Bobadilla said El Monte is a good example of the damage that state raids have done to the region.
Bobadilla said that in May, the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency was forced to turn over $2 million to comply with a bill passed last year that allows the state to take $1.7 billion in local redevelopment funding. These funds were used to offset state obligations in the 2009-10 budget. An additional $350 million could be taken from local agencies this year as well.
“We’ve changed the way we function, our structure, the way we spend our money, the way we hire,” Bobadilla said. “But we still have a cloud from the state saying, ‘We’re gonna have to balance our budget on your back.’ ”
Baca, who said his department endured a $128-million budget cut, decried the “absence of planning and leadership from Sacramento.”
After the conference, Luis Aguilar, owner of Liberty Tax Service in El Monte, commended the city for holding the event, attended by about 100 people.
“I think they are on the right track because they are requesting to take control of their own money,” he said.
-- Nate Jackson in El Monte