Administration and Finance Subcommittee to Prioritize Fire Rebuilds



City Assistant Manager, Lisa Soghor presented second-quarter financial report and mid-year budget amendments on her last day 

On her last day as the City Assistant Manager, Lisa Soghor presented the second-quarter financial report and mid-year budget amendments during the first Administration and Finance Subcommittee meeting of 2022. 

“I know we went into this fiscal year, with still a lot of uncertaining about the economic impacts of COVID-19 pandemic,” Soghor said during last Wednesday’s meeting. “And how that was going to impact sales tax, and we’ve seen these surges come and go, we’re still in another surge.” 

Soghor said in the prior year; they had set aside $6.5 million in a designated reserve to help balance operating expenses because they were projecting revenues to not be not be enough to balance their regular general fund operating expenditures.

“At the time of budget adoption, we were projecting that we would need to use roughly $3.8 million of that reserve; I am pleased to tell you that today, I am projecting that we have to use zero of that set-aside funds and have money enough to fund the additions that we’re talking about as part of the mid-year.”

Soghor emphasized how much the pandemic impacted restaurants since most of their revenue comes specifically from restaurants.

“That is our primary sales tax revenue source because we don’t have a lot of retail and big box stores; it really does come from the restaurants,” Soghor said. “That recovery is greater than anyone has ever predicted.”

Soghor said they have a mid-year amendment of $5.66 million increase in revenue projections from where they were. Soghor said the city’s numbers have increased beyond even prior to the pandemic. 

The city currently has 236 active short-term rental permits.

Even after the Woolsey Fire, Soghor said the city still holds its property value.

In this year’s report, Soghor included the general fund expenditures for the investigation into the Wagner affidavit based on cost out the door and based on the number they have paid the attorneys.

In addition, Soghor said they had taken into consideration to provide additional staff for Yolonda Bundy, the City of Malibu’s Environmental Sustainability Director/Building Official, in assistance for the Woolsey Fire rebuild permit process.

“This does propose two staff members and building safety, one permit tech and one inspector, the cost of those is only $60,000 for the current year and for a full year would cost $90,000 a piece,” Soghor said. “We’re also proposing to add a sustainability analyst position for Yolonda. There is significantly more staff work that can be handled…she has two people in the environmental program, and this would help out greatly.”

In regards to Dark Sky Ordinance work, Soghor said Yolonda would need additional consultant services to help prepare materials and establish permit requirements. She is unsure how much that would cost. 

“If people come in for permits, we’re going to have to hire additional subject matter experts, technical expert consultants, to do inspections in the field and will probably be expensive because it will be at night and if people are changing fixtures, they need to file an electrical permit with the city for that change,” Soghor said. 

Councilmember Steve Uhring asked if he would need to have a permit to change a light fixture in his front porch, to which Soghor responded yes.

“That’s insane,” Uhring said.

Yolanda Bundy joined the conversation and answered Uhring’s question.

“It’s not dictated by the city; it’s dictated by the state of California; any wiring or rewiring would require an electric permit,” Bundy said. “I know that it’s difficult to hear, but it’s life and safety; a lot of the electrical malfunction will result in a fire.”

Bundy said that the permit is required per law and the requirement to prevent fires and also to make sure it is done properly. 

Soghor said they have included the $60,000 in the budget as well as the Dark Sky Ordinance project. She said it would cost an estimated $64,000 to change lights for places such as City Hall and Legacy Park.

Soghor briefly mentioned the American Rescue Plan funds for procurement and implementation of permitting software. Soghor said one of the additions to the mid-year budget amendment is the subcommittee to recommend bringing back a software design that makes it easier to communicate remotely. 

“All the departments have been hem strung through the pandemic, we’ve done our best with the tools we have to work remotely and to be able to send documents back and forth and especially for planning, public safety, and public works, there are large files and plans, and they haven’t been able, for many months in and out in the past two years of not being together in the same building as we had normally been,” Soghor said. “So this kind of software would definitely enable that, and I think it would help the city down the road so that people would be more efficient remotely because they would be able to communicate.”

With the multiple city and department members leaving, Soghor recommends not adding anything to the work plan until they have been fully staffed.

“Staff is in array. People are leaving,—I’m leaving, luckily we have Ruthie coming along, and that’s a stabilizing thing and good for everybody,” Soghor said. “Again, since it’s my last day, this is my last time to impress this upon you that you all have great ideas and you come up with wonderful environmental programs or thoughts of things that can make the city better, and you pass the ordinance, great—let’s move on to the next thing, what often gets missed, is that the staff then has to make it real and just because we put a date on something and say this ordinance is effective, we have to make sure everybody understands what that means.”

Soghor said in order to work on new projects; she suggests having enough staff to help with completing projects.

“It’s been a tremendous amount of staff time, from staff who already had other things on their plate,… planning is going to be taking on those permit renewals and any new permits that come in, but it’s a huge amount of staff time and work, just to do those 236 permits.”

Planning Director Richard Mollica, Public Works Director Rob DuBoux, and Yolonda Bundy said of the projects they have been working on, fire rebuilds are their priority. 

“I want to get those people back into their homes as quickly as we can, so we drop everything we can to get those people back in,” DuBoux said. “And so we’ve been really trying to work hard on getting that but also keep on moving some other stuff, so if you see things slipping—which I’m trying not to have other stuff slip, just know that’s our (main) goal.”

Uhring said they have to manage better and begin with the Malibu Motel Inn project that has come up during the past few meetings. 

“You sit back and say, is that priority higher, or should I be spending my time on fire rebuilds, should I be taking care of the residents who don’t have any place to live and work on the hotel later, it’s a thought, because doing them both, something’s gotta give,” Uhring said. “If we do it, we’re going to make people unhappy. If we prioritize one piece over the other one, somebody’s going to be mad. We just may have to live with the fact that people are going to be upset and do our best we can to take care of the folks who need the help the most.”

In regards to the city’s reserve, Soghor said they ended the year with a reserve higher than last year at 97 percent. City Councilmember Mikke Pierson said the number seemed higher than usual. 

“We ended last year at $38.8 million; we’re projecting that we’re going to end the year at $39.2 million in the undesignated reserve, which gives you about a 97.5 percent reserve,” Soghor said. 

Community Services Director Jesse Bobbett said they also need help with more staff in the park and recreation department.

“The reality is we just need more help from the staff perspective, nothing’s impossible, but we will need a lot more help,” Bobbett said. “Having new staff will help us be able to start what we’re supposed to do.”

Bobbett said they need to assess paying their park staff employees—because they’ve been struggling. 

“That is our front line; that’s how we run our department, so we need to make sure that we can pay them enough to want to work for us,” Bobbett said. “That it takes the load off some of our full-time staff having to do a lot of things we would typically have a part-time staffer do.”

The subcommittee motioned to approve the Fiscal Year 2021-2022 second-quarter financial report and mid-year budget amendment item on the agenda.

The last item on the agenda was the approval for bonus pay for departments that have helped the city, such as the finance and human resource department. This would award and recognize members who have received special certifications.

“This is a parting attempt to correct that for them,” Soghor said. “We actually did have one of our staff members become a certified public accountant—that takes a lot. We would love to be able to recognize someone who has done that.” 

The motion to adopt the changes for bonus pay for the finance and human resource departments passed and would be brought back to council for adoption. The meeting adjourned in honor of Soghor.