After years of financial stress, Montebello predicts more revenues, spending ahead

An improving economy, the 0.75% sales tax increase voters approved in March 2020 and better budget practices are expected to allow Montebello to spend nearly $6 million more than this fiscal year, which ends June 30, and still balance the budget.

Montebello City Manager Rene Bobadilla’s budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year ending in June 2022, headed for City Council approval June 23, predicts a $278,760 surplus.

The City Council is expected to take another look at the budget at its Wednesday, June 9 meeting.

“It absolutely speaks to the improvement in budgeting and being able to allocate expenses in non-general fund sources,” Michael Solorza, finance director, said.

“It’s healthy, balanced and provides the basis for day-to-day services with no cuts and some expansion in services and operation,” Solorza said. “It’s a well-thought-out, planned budget.”

Until this year, Montebello experienced a series of years with deficits. A December 2018 state audit said the city was on unsure financial footing as a result of running a golf course, hotels and a water system — all of which may need subsidizing — while relying too heavily on one-time sources of money and a lack of competitive bidding.

But last year’s budget projected a slight surplus for the year ending this month.

Next year’s $61.2 million proposed budget calls for hiring of 13 more employees, including:

  • A records technician for Administration.
  • A building permit technician and housing manager for the Community Development Department.
  • A community risk reduction coordinator, grants and project administrator and senior fire inspector for the Fire Department.
  • Human resources and information systems managers for Human Resources.
  • A recreation manager for Parks and Recreation.
  • An assistant engineer and public works inspector for Public Works.
  • A maintenance manager and transit planner for the Transit Department.

With this budget, the total number of city employees reaches 467.

“What we realized two years ago is we have serious critical staffing needs in certain departments based on our size,” Solorza said.

For example, in past years, the city added two positions in the Fire Department to deal with homeless individuals. Also the Fire Department had neither a fire prevention officer nor someone to help with budget paperwork, he said.

“You can’t have a firefighter doing budget time,” he said.

Montebello also has the money to pay for the new employees, in part because of the $7 million from Measure H, the sales tax voters approved last year, Solorza said. That amount came in $1 million higher than expected.

“Measure H was one of those great initiatives that helped Montebello float through the pandemic,” Councilwoman Scarlet Peralta said.

Sales tax revenue also is expected to go up by14% or $2.5 million from the fiscal 2019-20 year.

“It incorporates anticipated growth as people are starting to spend more,” Solorz said of sales tax projections.

“We’re doing better than anticipated,” he said. “The federal stimulus checks have helped people not just pay for essentials but splurges.”

After years of financial stress, Montebello predicts more revenues, spending ahead