Hermosa Beach City Manager Suja Lowenthal, on the job for less than a year, is recommending the city create a new assistant city manager position. Lowenthal made the recommendation at a recent budget study session.
“We're on a strong financial footing as a local government,” said Lowenthal, but the “small city with large ambitions,” needed to continue “ongoing fiscal diligence and prudence.”
As part of the overall balanced budget of $46 million for 2019-20, Lowenthal recommended a number of personnel changes including the creation of the new executive-level position.
If approved, the salary and benefits for a new assistant city manager would total more than $219,000 a year, according to finance director Viki Copeland.
Lowenthal's recommendation created concern from some of the councilmembers.
Mayor Stacey Armato and Councilmember Hany Fangary raised concerns about that cost without eliminating other positions to counter the expense.
“Just seeing the price tag that comes along with an assistant city manager, it's like hiring another director or manager.... I don't know now we can justify absorbing $219,000, and more so the long term costs related to that in retirement costs etc., we see over and over,” Armato said.
Armato said she would be more open to hiring an economic development director, a position that could help create revenue for the city.
Councilmembers Jeff Duclos and Justin Massey supported creating the assistant city manager position.
“I think it's incumbent upon us to trust the person who manages our city in terms of what staffing you (Lowenthal) need to achieve the goals that have been set before you,” Duclos said. “I support you 100 percent.”
Mayor Pro Tem Mary Campbell said they needed to be “prudent” on the “big recommendation.”
According to the assistant city manager job description supplied by Lowenthal, the position will handle “many of the operational day-to-day issues while the City Manager will carry the duties of a Chief Executive Officer, providing key strategic planning, leadership and direction.”
“In order to continue providing services that residents have grown to expect of their City government, there is a need to expand the capacity and oversight of operations at the City Manager's Department-level,” reads the job description. “Establishing the Assistant City Manager classification would provide critical support to the City in reaching its ambitious goals toward its strategic vision, while improving the function of management services by allowing the City Manager to focus on bigger picture initiatives, partnerships and capacity building.”
In determining salary for the proposed assistant city manager position, Lowenthal said this week the city looked at available data from cities in its classification and compensation study for fiscal year 2015-16.
“This study includes comparative salary/benefits data from 18 other cities in the region, and was the basis for Citywide position classification and compensation adjustments a few years ago,” Lowenthal said in an email. “An average salary amount was established using the comparative data from the minimum salary step of other cities' Assistant City Manager positions.”
In neighboring Manhattan Beach, former City Manager Mark Danaj brought an assistant city manager on board in 2014. That executive, who made roughly $200,000 per year, left that city in 2017. The Manhattan Beach City Council has not replaced her.
According to the Hermosa Beach budget, the largest revenue source for the city's General Fund is property taxes, which will be more than $19.3 million for 2019-20. That is followed by service charges at more than $8.5 million, other taxes at nearly $4 million, Transient Occupancy Tax at nearly $3.3 million, and sales tax at nearly $3.2 million.
Of the sales tax, from July 2018 to February 2019, nearly $523,000 comes from restaurants followed far behind by building materials and grocery stores, which raise nearly $117,000 each. Revenue from the Pacific Coast Highway area produces around 42 percent of revenue, followed by downtown at 40 percent.
Of the $40 million from the city's General Fund, nearly $23 million goes to public safety, followed by nearly $6.4 million for public works and nearly $5 million for city management and support.
For the upcoming year, the city has more than 30 capital improvement projects, which is funded, that cost approximately $20 million. More than $7.4 million funds public buildings and ground improvements, nearly $4.7 million for park improvements, approximately $7.5 million for street, highway and sewer storm drain improvements.
The city will also continue its payments to Los Angeles County fire for fire facility renovations and equipment conversions. Nearly $364,000 is budgeted for facility payments, which started in January and costs are spread out of a fire-year period. Nearly $42,000 is budgeted for fire equipment conversions, which started in January 2018 and are also spread out over a five year period.
Another public hearing to discuss the budget will take place on Tuesday, June 11, at City Hall, beginning at 7 p.m.
The budget can be reviewed at hermosabch.org/index.aspx?page=211.