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Laguna Beach adds to budget for city attorney and homeless shelter

Laguna Beach adds to budget for city attorney and homeless shelter
Guests prepare for the night at the Alternative Sleeping Location in Laguna Canyon in this 2014 photo. An additional $140,000 is expected to be needed in the coming fiscal year for the site, according to city staff. (File Photo)

The Laguna Beach City Council approved changes Tuesday to its previously approved $97-million budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year, including allocating more toward legal services and the local homeless shelter.

Laguna’s outsourced city attorney’s office, led by Philip Kohn of Costa Mesa-based Rutan & Tucker, increased its monthly retainer from $8,500 to $12,000. It also increased its hourly rate from $235 to $255 for general matters taking more than 60 hours per month or for specialized litigation.

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The attorney billing rate was last modified in 2014.

The increases are expected to cost City Hall $42,000 in addition to the previously approved $750,000 for the city attorney’s office.

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The 2018-19 budget was first approved in June 2017. The city approves its budgets in two-year cycles. The new fiscal year starts July 1.

City staff said it expects to need an additional $140,000 in the coming fiscal year for the Laguna Canyon Road homeless shelter dubbed the Alternative Sleeping Location. City documents did not clarify the reason but said the council will re-examine the matter later this year and that the additional costs are expected to be ongoing, not one-time expenditures.

Specifics of the increased shelter costs are not yet determined, Gavin Curran, the city’s director of administrative services, said Wednesday.

The budget boost came after the council extended the shelter’s contract through June 2019. City officials now estimate the ASL — which houses about 45 people each night and provides meals, transportation, storage and case management services — will cost $547,000 in 2018-19. That includes the $407,000 original budget and the $140,000 increase, Curran said.

The facility, which opened in 2009, is run by Friendship Shelter Inc., a nonprofit established in 1987.

Other spending in the 2018-19 budget includes nearly $20 million for the Police Department — which, at 97 full-time personnel, has its highest authorized number of employees in department history; $5.7 million toward Coast Highway sidewalk work; $3.4 million to help pay down the city’s unfunded pension liability; $1 million to retrofit the Glenneyre Street parking structure and $6.4 million in sewer projects.

Staff writer Luke Money contributed to this report.

5:40 p.m.: This article was updated with information from Gavin Curran.

This article was originally published at 3:10 p.m.

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