City council debates use of reserve funds


Council members discuss whether to spend or save, noting that the state’s budget crisis will have a trickle-down effect to cities. The council also forms an ad hoc committee to find a replacement for Papa Jack’s Skate Park.

By Knowles Adkisson / The Malibu Times

Malibu city council members debated how to best utilize the city’s reserve funds after a budget presentation at the council’s quarterly meeting last week, with some wanting to utilize the funds to purchase property and others saying it should be put aside.

Administrative Services Director Reva Feldman made a budget presentation for fiscal year 2010-2011 Wednesday last week that projected the city would have approximately $9.5 million in the general fund’s undesignated reserve when the fiscal year ended June 30. It is a council goal to maintain at least $8 million in reserves.

Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich wants the city to buy property for a new park and colleague Lou La Monte argued that more reserve money should be accumulated.

Ulich suggested after the presentation that the city should utilize some of that reserve money to buy 9.8 acres of land near Heathercliff Road on Pacific Coast Highway for a future park with sports fields and a skate park. (The land is owned by Point Dume Village owner Zan Marquis, who last month applied to have zoning changed for the property from residential to commercial so he could build a parking lot there. However, the city’s zoning committee turned down the application.)

But La Monte said the reserves were not enough for the long-term financial health of the city. La Monte said the city used to keep enough funds in reserve to equal the annual general fund budget, but that the current reserves were only about 40 percent of that budget. La Monte said the cities of Calabasas and Westlake Village have equal to 100 percent of their general fund budget in reserve.

“So I think that’s kind of where we need to be,” La Monte said. “I think $8 million isn’t enough, our revenues are flat and our expenses aren’t. I think we should seriously consider increasing that reserve rather than depleting it.”

City Manager Jim Thorsen suggested the council consider developing a policy on what percentage of the budget to keep in reserve.

In response to a question from Mayor Pro Tem Laura Rosenthal about budget concerns, Feldman said, “The thing that could affect us the most is that the state is looking at shifting expenses back to the counties,” which, she said, could result in Los Angeles County shifting some of its expenses to Malibu. Feldman said budget figures from the state were difficult to project at this time.

Feldman said that while the city’s general fund revenues were not declining, they also were not growing. She said it was something she would be addressing during the development of the budget for the next fiscal year.

Skate park ad hoc committee formed

Councilmembers Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner and Ulich were selected to serve on a skate park ad hoc committee. The committee will search for a new location for Papa Jack’s Skate Park, which is facing eviction from its current location on commercial property in the Civic Center area in October.

Council members considered appointed a task force instead, which would have included at-large community members in the search process, in addition to Wagner and Ulich, but decided to go with the ad hoc committee in the interest of speed, because task forces require public meetings and deliberation. Both Wagner and Ulich said they would reach out to community members for input on the search for a new property for the skate park. Wagner suggested that the park also be available to BMX bicyclists.

“First we’ll explore all avenues for property access,” Wagner said. “Whose property can we purchase, whose property can we lease, who is willing to have a skate park/BMX park.”

Wagner said the committee would consult the Parks and Recreation Commission to see what work they have already done toward the project. Ulich mentioned including Steve Soboroff, the owner of the land where the skate park is currently located and who has pledged $25,000 to a new one, in the process, as well as former mayor Sharon Barovsky and Parks and Recreation Commissioner Regan Schaar, who has been outspoken in support of a new location.

Wagner also said he would like to hear from the teenagers who spoke in the past for the skate park, “so we have an interpretation from the users of the park when we look at properties.”

Wagner said he felt confident that a suitable site could be found.

“For something as small as this with very little infrastructure that’s necessary, it’s easier than trying to build a building or a house. You just lay down some cement, bring in some electricity to the site, you can always use port-o-potties for public convenience. But I don’t think it’s a difficult quest.”

Malibu residents who wish to get involved in the process may contact Wagner and Ulich, whose phone numbers and email addresses are on the city’s Web site,

City Council Actions

– An agency fund was established so the city can accept donations for Malibu’s 20th anniversary celebration to take place in March .

– $25,000 was allocated from the general fund as an undesignated reserve for the Volunteers on Patrol program.

– Up to $5,000 was allocated from the general fund undesignated reserve for the installation of an outdoor restroom at Malibu High School.