What’s more, your vote really counts. As of Thursday (1/10/13), only 86 Community Give Back surveys had been returned! So your ballot will constitute around 1% of the vote!
What makes it so important is this is our chance to determine how over a third of a million dollars of the City’s dwindling budget “surplus” is to be “given back” to the community. If it’s given back at all!
Interestingly enough, the City has set aside $348,000, and the total for all the listed options is $457,500, just a little more than $100,000 over the total amount allocated! So most of the stuff will be funded. . . unless people vote to hold back some of the money, or spend it on something else, under the “other” option! With only 86 ballots turned in so far and 10 items on the list, if you and a couple dozen of your neighbors came up with something, you could probably get it funded!
Among the choices on the ballot are
- Plant 600 trees on city-owned properties for $76,000
- Give 1,000 households emergency kits for $90,000
- $36,000 for scholarships to low to moderate income Senior Citizens to go for free on trips offered by the Los Alamitos Senior Club.
- $8,500 to develop a 15 plot Community Garden on city-owned land.
How we got here:
Last year, when the Council approved using some of the budget surplus to encourage businesses to remodel or upgrade, some Council Members felt some of the surplus should be given back to residents as well. Residents who spoke on the topic felt they’d rather have things done for the community than receive around $25 per family in tax rebates.
Back then much was being made of the City’s surplus. . . now people are wondering just how big that surplus really is. What was once around $8,000,000 gets cut almost in half if you consider the city’s unfunded pension liabilities. Throw in the principle still due on the purchase of Laurel Park from the School District and that eight million bucks is a lot closer to one million bucks.
Looking at it that way, the “Give back” could be giving back 1/4 to 1/3 or our actual surplus!
On January 5 I ran “Making the most of the Community Give-Back,” suggesting the money could be better used for developing a Los Al Residents’ Association/Neighborhood Watch and working with that Association to develop broadly accepted long range goals for our town. Then holding back the bulk of the money (at least $300,000, a but under 90%) as “seed money” towards reaching those goals.
“Slow down!” . . .
. . . was the general consensus of the comments on that post. Let’s figure out what the surplus really is & prioritize our needs before we start giving away trips to seniors with combined income of as much as $57,000. As one resident posted:
The city is acting like kids in a candy store after their mom gave them a pocket full of money. They can’t choose from an Abba-Zaba bar, an all-day sucker, or a box of Good& Plenty.
It is imperative that before any decisions are made we need to have a forecast on possible expenses vs costs over the next fiscal year.
It would be wise to let the public know the number of city programs, and people, cut over the last couple of years, the real state and needs of our parks, and how we could all benefit from additional police presence on our streets, for instance…before buying a bag of candy.
Whatever you think, you’ve got until 5 pm this Tuesday to get your vote in!
What to do:
- Ballots are restricted to one per City of Los Alamitos household (sorry, Rossmoor residents), and I’m told you must complete the address inf0 on the back of the survey for it to be counted. (“All information is kept confidential,” the form states.)
- If you don’t have the winter parks and rec brochure lying around, just click here for a printable copy of the form. Or use the “contact us” button at the top of this page to e-mail me with your address, & I’ll try to drop one off in the next day. Or stop by City Hall on Monday, ask for a form, fill it out, and turn it in on the spot!
- The form tells you to “Select 5 of the following  choices and rank in order of 1-5: 1=most important, 5=least important.” I assume the five you don’t pick would be less important than any of the five you do.
- The last of the ten boxes is for “Other (give us your ideas),” with additional room to comment on the back side (second page). I plan to mark the box for “Other” #1 and write in “save back at least $300,000 for developing and as seed money for implementing broadly accepted 20-60 year visionary goals for Los Alamitos” I suspect a lot of our readers will mark “other” # 1 and write in “Save most of the money until we’ve done a forensic audit and know what Los Al’s financial picture really is.” Or something like that.
- Get your form to City Hall by Tuesday. You can drop it off, put it in Monday’s mail, or scan it & e-mail it to our City Manager, AAvery@CityofLosAlamitos.org .
- Encourage your Los Alamitos friends and neighbors to vote as well by phone, walking next door, or using the “share” button below to e-mail, tweet, or post to facebook, among other options.
- Share your thoughts in a comment below.
I’ll start by sharing mine:
Thoughts on the 10 options:
I feel any use of the surplus should be viewed as an investment or seed money. Not to create temporary programs. So I won’t vote for giving away Emergency kits, expanding the summer parks program by three weeks, leasing holiday decorations, or senior trips scholarships, no matter how worthy.
What I do like/see as “investments:” (in the order I’m inclined to rank them)
- “Other” ”Hold back at least $300,000 for developing and seed money for implementing broadly accepted 20 – 60 year visionary goals for Los Alamitos.
- “Develop a Community Garden” at $8,500, the best buy in the program, and could serve as prototype for more.
- “Plant trees,” but I’ll write in “$2,500 – $4,000 to develop and promote 10- 30 Tree Planting and other”Eagle Projects” for Orange County and Long Beach Scouts.” (When Nate was a scout we were advised not to seek out an Eagle project with the City because they were poorly organized and non supportive. I’ll bet local Scout Masters would be eager to work with City Staff to Develop Eagle projects to benefit our town!)
- “Seed Money for Sugar Beet Festival” but I’d write in “$5,000.” Hopefully the organizers could rely on volunteers and community sponsors to make up the rest. Sorry, Larry–I love the idea, though!
- “Digital Reader Board” but I’d add “$5,000 max, to research support by advertising & type of display and location.” It seems to me City Hall might be a better location, or off the freeway, & it seems the cost could be covered by including ads for local sales tax-generating businesses. An alternative for # 5: ”Re-establish Police Explorer Program,” but I’d write in “$8,000 seed money, $4,500 year 1, $2,500 year 2, $1,000 year 3.”
Those are just my ideas, to get you thinking. If you like some, please feel free to use them. And please share your thoughts and ideas in a comment below.
But most important, please use the “share” button below to spread the word to other Los Alamitos residents!