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Pomona eyes legal cannabis as possible barrier against ‘fiscal cliff’

Facing what an adviser called a “fiscal cliff,” Pomona city leaders are figuratively rolling up their sleeves the next couple of weeks as they sort out ways to generate new revenue streams.

Earlier this month, the council heard from a consultant who predicted the city’s income is $8 million to $10 million short of its expenditures for the next decade. Meanwhile the city’s reserves, its savings account, can only come to the rescue the next two fiscal cycles.

Going to pot

Councilwoman Ginna Escobar is renewing her push to allow the sale of cannabis oil as a new source of revenues for the city’s depleting coffers. It’s an idea that several on the dais agreed to be explored.

“I don’t want to see marijuana, but cannabis is not a means to an end,” she told her colleagues at a study session May 14. “When you have all these deficits, and it’s only going to get worse, we can’t dip into our reserves because we don’t have enough money to sustain ourselves.”

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“Our residents are sick and tired of not seeing things get done.”

The city should consider regulating marijuana businesses, Escobar said, adding Pomona has the capacity to allow manufacturing and research facilities, among other options.

Pomona’s proposed $107 million operating budget for 2018-19 is used to pay for the bulk of city services, including police and fire, parks and the library. But with revenues for the next year expected to be about $102 million, the council will consider using $4.7 million of its savings.

Before OKing cannabis, Mayor Tim Sandoval believes the city should commission a financial impact analysis so council members can understand what other cities have experienced since permitting cannabis sales and activity.

Or, the council could consider seeking voter approval for new taxes.

“I don’t think any of us ever have to want to go to the voters and ask for an increase in taxes,” Sandoval said. “We have to consider other potential opportunities to increase revenues, as long as it doesn’t have a serious and adverse impact on the social costs that can come with those types of decisions.”

Structurally, Carrizosa said, “we are not doing anything.” She described Pomona as reactionary rather than proactive.

“We always leave the end to the library and community services, and the slice of the pie every year continues to be thinner and thinner,” she said.

Following the consultant’s plan, she suggested the council move to a priority-based budget, one that responds to the community’s needs first.

“We can’t wait until the cannabis money comes around,” Carrizosa said.


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