A citizens petition effort to reduce the Colton City Council size from seven representatives to five is underway.
City commissioners Larry Rivas, Gary Grossich, Mike Razo, and Mark Garcia are walking every district in Colton to gain support for a government downsizing. So far, Rivas said, the group is, “batting 100 percent.”
“Everyone so far is in support,” expressed Rivas, who sits on the Parks and Recreation Commission. “This has been talked about [in] years past but it’s never gone anywhere. This city is at the point where it needs to cut back at every opportunity. This is yet one opportunity.”
The city’s budget report prepared by City Manager Bill Smith’s office for 2016-2017 demonstrates the city is currently operating under a general budget surplus of $154,464.
Measure D, passed by voters in June 2016, allowed city officials to move roughly $11.7 million (or 18.9 percent) from the Electric Utility Fund into the General Budget.
Councilmembers Dr. Luis Gonzalez, Frank Navarro, and Mayor Richard De La Rosa pitched a proposal to go from seven to five representatives during the April 4 meeting–only for the majority of the Council to reject the idea.
“I don’t know if it’s necessary,” Councilwoman Summer Zamora-Jorrin said on April 4. “The way things are working now seem to be OK.”
The commissioners–along with Gonzalez, Navarro, and De La Rosa–claim the city could be saving thousands of dollars by eliminating two council positions. All of them agree that Measure D money is only a temporary “band aid” and that other ideas must be considered in order to avoid fiscal disaster.
“I see what [Measure D] can do,” Razo said. “But what’s going to happen after five years? At the end of five years , you’re looking at utility rates going up high or they’re going to have to come out to the voters again with something else like this. I’m in support of reducing the council size because it’s going in the direction of doing something permanent that costs less.”
According to the Transparent California website, the Mayor and Common Council make approximately $22,000 a year individually, including benefits. The City Council was allocated $481,450 for the 2016-17 Fiscal Year, as stated on the budget report.
Measure D was passed to sustain services, Grossich said. The 2016-17 budget reflects cuts to the Electric Utility and Police Department and a $8,350 increase for the City Council from last year. The Planning Commissioner claims that City Council spending has increased over 350 percent.
“It’s very difficult to ask others to take cuts when you’re spending is growing and growing,” Grossich said. “It goes into the culture that we’ve had in Colton. The seven council members operate under their own department.”