Bigger budget a boon for Colma

The tiny town known for taking care of the deceased should perhaps also be known for how it takes care of the living.

The city’s proposed budget for next year is $16.5 million, roughly $10,500 per person, as residents enjoy a variety of perks from $4 San Francisco Giants tickets to free cable television.

But city officials say the increased budget this year — normally hovering in the $14 million-plus range, City Manager Diane McGrath said — is a result of $2.2 million coming from outside the city to help with the undergrounding of power lines along El Camino Real.

Colma is the lead agency, but Daly City, San Mateo County and Caltrans are contributing to the $2.8 million project, McGrath said. The elimination of cardroom wagering limits and a Tax Equity Allocation settlement with San Mateo County also helped this year’s proposal, according to the budget report.

Recreation Services, which oversees the classes, camps and trips that add to the perks of living in Colma, should receive $744,000 in the proposed budget. This helps pay for discounted tickets to San Francisco Giants and 49ers games and allows Colma residents to send their kids to spring and summer camp in town for $2 a day.

Rudy Castro, 58, has lived with his family in Colma for the past 29 years, working for IBM as a technician. Castro recently took a job with the Recreation Services Department but, as a resident, said that there was a “big difference” between Colma and other towns.

“The city treats you like family,” Castro said. “You even feel that they love you because of the way they treat you.”

Councilman Joseph Silva said that the car dealerships and shopping center bring in 20,000 people per week to the small town, which accounts partially for the “pretty good-sized police department.”

In the 2007-2008 budget proposal, the 26-person department is set to receive $5.2 million — almost one-third of the entire proposal.

“Everything gets wear and tear with that many people coming in and out,” Silva said, adding that a lot of crime is coming from outside Colma’s borders.

During the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 years, city expenditures swelled to $19.8 million and $21 million respectively, while the town fully funded the $6.85 million Colma Community Center and $8.89 million police station, according to the budget report.

But the city took a hit when wagering limits were put in place at Lucky Chances Casino, the local cardroom that has been a prime revenue generator for the town. The city is expecting $3.2 million in revenue from the cardroom in the upcoming year, $1.3 million more than was expected last year.

PERKS FOR RESIDENTS

» Free basic cable

» Discounted recreation programs*

» Cholesterol and glucose testing

» Sewer services

» Pollution elimination subsidies

*Programs include but are not limited to: Giants, 49ers and Grand National Rodeo tickets, a town-wide holiday party, charter fishing trips, white-water rafting, cooking classes, college tours and day camps for kids.

dsmith@examiner.com


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