City Council puts off decision on $9.8M

DOWNEY - With an extra $9.8 million on hand after the sale of the land formerly occupied by Downey Regional Medical Center, the city council must decide how much of it to spend and how much to save -- a task easier said than done.

In a special meeting last Thursday afternoon, the council unanimously agreed to wait until the end of January, during mid-year budget discussions, to decide how the funds are allocated.

For Brossmer, spending the money now seems premature, especially since the city is unsure how the remaining fiscal year will pan out.

"I can see why there's a need -- a pent up need -- but I think it's fiscally imprudent to move forward without seeing a whole picture," said Brossmer. "We should spend these funds during our normal budgetary times."

Guerra, however, felt the council should at least give city staff some direction and allocate funds for vital needs.

"We should prioritize now," he said. "I don't want to wait until next year to fix the leak in the roof of the evidence room in the police department."

City manager Gilbert Livas suggested the council at least agree on a number they'd like to spend and the amount they'd like to put in reserves, but the councilmen said they'd like to see a clearer economic forecast and a list of the city's most pressing needs.

"We can start pulling things out willy-nilly, that's a way to do it, but I want to see a list," Brossmer said. "Once I see a list, my number one could become my number 30."

Livas agreed that city staff would compile a list of top city priorities by the end of next month. Before the council voted, former mayors David Gafin and Meredith Perkins publicly urged the city council to save as much of the $9.8 million as possible.

"Remember the rainy day fund -- it's been hit," said Gafin, who was on the council when the recession began. "We used quite a bit of the reserves because we wanted to maintain what we had. It'd be real easy to spend that money, but put a majority of it away."

Perkins likewise pleaded for council members to be considerate of the future, reminding them that former councils set aside millions to acquire land that residents still use today, including the Rio Hondo Golf Course and the former NASA site, that will soon house the Promenade shopping center.

"Don't get tied up with little projects. Nine million dollars is small change today, invest the money into the future," he said. "Update what we already have and leave the funds for future generations."

********** Published: Dec. 19, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 36

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