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City Officials Respond: Apples and Oranges & Bad Math

June 17, 2003

Dear Editor,

I know you're hearing from various Santa Monica department heads about the apples & oranges budget comparisons with Pasadena in today's issue, and I must join the chorus and correct the info on City Manager's Office budgets for both cities. ("Tale of Two Cities: How Santa Monica and Pasadena Spend Their Money," June 17)

Our Information Systems Division is part of the City Manager's Office here and accounts for $2.9 million of the total budget for the office. Back that out of the equation, and we are comparable to Pasadena (actually, about $800,000 less, but because the general fund subsidizes some of the $838,000 cable budget, I'd say we're comparable). Public affairs and cable are part of our office and theirs.

Also, although the Risk Management Division is funded out of the Workers Comp fund here, it is also an administrative responsibility of the Manager's Office (in Pasadena, I believe the responsibility resides with Finance).

Corrections appreciated.

Judy Rambeau
Assistant to the City Manager for Community Relations


June 17, 2003

Dear Editor,

Regarding today's "Tale of Two Cities: How Santa Monica and Pasadena Spend Their Money. I would like to correct several errors regarding the comparison of contributions made by Pasadena and Santa Monica to their respective school districts.

(1) Santa Monica's 02-03 Support to SMMUSD: The City of Santa Monica provided $4.5 million in FY 2002-03 to SMMUSD per a "master facilities use agreement" that provides for City use of school district facilities during non-school hours for programs such as CREST and Playground Partnership. This included $ 3 million in ongoing General Fund support and a one-time allocation of $1.5 million. In addition, the Council approved $378,000 in targeted grants to the school district.

(2) Total City Support for School-Based Programs and Comparative Analysis of District Support: We have reviewed the breakdown of the $3 million provided by Pasadena in 02-03 to its school district. This support is comprised of a whole range of services and in-kind support in the following categories (Library Usage, Energy/Conservation Programs, PD School Resources Officers, Afterschool Programs, Student Transportation, Crossing Guards, Health Services, and Miscellaneous Support).

We have also developed a comparable list of ALL school-based City support and for 02-03 this totals $9.1 million. Therefore, the accurate comparison is $3 million in support in Pasadena and $9.1 million in Santa Monica, not $3.0 versus $3.5 million as stated in your article.

In addition, Santa Monica Community and Cultural Services (General Fund) includes recreation, human services, arts and open space management (including community events management, tree maintenance, open space and park maintenance).

Pasadena Department of Human Services and Recreation includes recreation and human services only. Arts is in the Planning and Development Dept. ($331,000) and open space management is in Public Works (approximately $5 million).

Barbara Stinchfield
Director, Community and Cultural Services


June 17, 2003

Dear Editor,

After reading today's article titled "A Tale of Two Cities: How Santa Monica and Pasadena Spend Their Money" (June 17), I would like to point out a few important facts.

Using the figures that were provided in the article, there is a computation error on the comparison of the cost of Fire Protection and Emergency Medical Service in the City of Pasadena versus Santa Monica.

The article correctly states that in Santa Monica the per resident costs break down to $167.20 per person, while in Pasadena you have listed per resident cost at $138. This is incorrect. The Pasadena Fire Department budget figure stated in the article is $25,765,002, and the population of Pasadena is listed at 138,800. Simply dividing the population into the budget figure will produce a Pasadena per resident cost of $185.63, 11% higher than the Santa Monica per capita costs.

There are other appropriate comparisons that deserve attention. The Santa Monica Fire Department provides six fully staffed Advanced Life Support (ALS) Paramedic units in our 8.3 square miles with an average response time of four minutes. This equates to one ALS unit for every 14,014 residents.

Pasadena provides one ALS unit for every 23,133 residents in their 23 square miles. The SMFD also provides Hazardous Materials response capabilities, coverage for the Santa Monica Airport and a sworn position for every 808 residents, compared to a sworn position for every 862 residents in Pasadena.

The City of Santa Monica's Public Safety budget (Fire & Police) makes up 31.8 percent of the City's general fund budget, 8.8 percent of which is for Fire Department operations. A comparison of the cost of Public Safety in Los Angeles County has indicated that the average percentage of the general fund that is spent on public safety in the 88 cities that make up Los Angeles County is 45.8 percent, while in the South Bay area, the costs average from 53 percent to 57 percent of general funds.

I believe these facts indicate that our citizens are getting a true value for the funds expended. The Santa Monica Fire Department's excellent fire fighting and emergency medical response, as well our fire prevention and training activities, are only accomplished due to the dedicated personnel that make up your Santa Monica Fire Department.

I have been proud to serve with all of our personnel for the last thirty-one years, and I believe that our citizens share that same pride.

Respectfully,

Ettore A. Berardinelli
Fire Chief
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