Emily Jo Cureton, The Triplicate

Funding for Chamber reduced by $15,000

About 50 voices spoke in richly layered unison at the start of Monday's Crescent City Council meeting.

Post-Pledge of Allegiance, consensus was harder to come by. The council debated and then finally approved a final 2012andndash;13 city budget, but only after hearing from many members of the public, one by one.

The resulting $17.8 million budget eliminates $15,000 in annual funding for the Chamber of Commerce and $6,000 for the Tri-Agency for Economic Development, among other reductions enacted to chip away at continued deficit spending, one year at a time.

For now, Fred Endert Municipal Pool won't be closed on Saturdays,

another unpopular proposal that would have carved $17,000 out of general


Eleven of 18 public commenters were pool-lovers, petitioning to keep

the doors open six days a week. Many volunteered to help the council

come up with alternatives in the coming months, such as raising user

rates or figuring out exactly which hours could be trimmed back to save

money, without eliminating another full day of access.

The pool's budget also includes $50,000 in state grant funding, which

may or may not be actually awarded.

The final budget puts the city's $4.6 million general fund (that's

the money it spends on discretionary services, not public utilities)

about $10,000 below the amount city staff repeatedly advised should be

kept in reserve.

Several motions detailing what to cut failed for lack of a second

before a proposal by Councilwoman Kelley Schellong passed 3-1.

Councilman Rich Enea voted against the final resolution and Councilwoman

Donna Westfall wasn't there.

Schellong said dramatically reducing the Chamber's funding for the

visitor services and fireworks in one fell swoop wouldn't be fair on

such short notice. (City staff originally proposed pulling 40 percent,

or $37,000, out of the previous year's allocation of $87,000, effective

July 1). Enea, on the other hand, supported the 40 percent cut from soup

to nuts.

"Last year it was very difficult for me to eliminate a police officer

position to fund the Visitor's Bureau for $40,000," he said. "The

Chamber has the ability to raise money. There's over 1,000 businesses in

the county ... It comes to a point when we are having to decide if we

are going to cut city services or give money out of our general fund to

an organization that can help itself."

City Manager Eugene Palazzo likened the beasts of general fund burden

to a food chain, listing them in order of priority as: police,

firefighting, streets, sidewalks, drainage, building inspection,

planning, code enforcement, parks, pool and community contributions.

The Chamber fits into the last category, occupying the lowest rung of

this fund-eat-fund world.

Most of the speakers who got up to advocate for the city funding the

Chamber on Monday argued that the organization spends public money to

feed public coffers. Marketing and visitor services result in increased

Transient Occupancy Tax collections, they said. The TOT is levied per

rented hotel room.

At the end of the meeting Mayor Kathryn Murray stressed that the

final budget is "a very fluid document," subject to amendment several

times a year.

In other city news, the council discussed participation in the

California League of Cities Conference in San Diego, a three-day event.

Four of the five council members and the City Manager will attend the

conference this September. A $10,000 allotment in the general fund will

foot the bill for the elected officials to attend. Last year, two

members and the city manager went:andshy;andshy; each attendee spent an average of

$1,645 on registration fees, hotel, food and gas costs.

"It's a training session for City Council members statewide," Palazzo

told the Triplicate. "They have a series of sessions all throughout the

days talking about how to run meetings and what the new legislation is.

There's a series of workshops that help council members learn how to be

council members."

Enea defended the expenditure, saying, "That's our only training for

the year."

Reach Emily Jo Cureton at ecureton@triplicate.com.