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Newport’s next budget proposes adding police and fire staff and continuing pension paydown

Newport’s next budget proposes adding police and fire staff and continuing pension paydown
Newport Beach police could add cold-case investigators, “jail matrons” and an officer dedicated to schools as part of the city’s 2018-19 budget. (File Photo)

Newport Beach's proposed budget for the new fiscal year includes $280.1 million in operating expenses.

It generally keeps spending flat, except for some proposed program enhancements that would require more staffing, said city Finance Director Dan Matusiewicz.

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The City Council plans to adopt a budget June 12. The 2018-19 fiscal year starts July 1.

City officials presented the council with a proposed spending plan Tuesday, including potential new hires. Here are examples of where those people could go:

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Police:

The Police Department could add cold-case investigators, "jail matrons" to tend to female suspects, and an officer dedicated to schools.

The school resource officer would enhance the police presence already at Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar high schools and potentially reach other Newport Beach public schools. The position's annual cost of $140,000 would be split between the city and the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

Three new community services officers, at a total cost of $225,000, would help respond to growing public records requests and serve as "matrons" to assist with women in the local holding cell, said Police Chief Jon Lewis. The latter duty would prevent the need to hire more-expensive "custody officers," take officers off patrol to shuttle women to the county jail or have a sworn female officer sitting in the Newport Beach jail, officials said.

The idea to spend $51,000 on part-time cold-case investigators was inspired by the recent arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., who is suspected of being the Golden State Killer who terrorized California with a string of burglaries, rapes and slayings in the 1970s and '80s.

"I think our whole department is intrigued by the possibility of investing a little bit more resources in cold cases like that," said City Manager Dave Kiff.

Fire:

Kiff wants to bring back the fire marshal position to enforce fire codes, making it a $133,000-a-year civilian job split between the Fire and Community Development departments.

Community Development staff currently evaluates fire prevention plans as part of building plans.

The city also proposes to devote $36,000 for standby pay for lifeguards to respond to after-hours harbor needs such as code enforcement complaints or late-night transient mooring check-ins.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department Harbor Patrol previously did that but now responds only to public safety emergencies since the city took over administrative duties last year.

Community Development:

The city hopes to spend $188,000 on additional part-time building inspectors and $121,000 on a plan-check engineer, among other added support staff in the Community Development Department.

Pension liability

The city aims to continue putting dents in its unfunded pension liability, which ballooned from $2 million in 2007 to $321 million in 2016. The state gives local governments their unfunded liability amounts on a two-year delay; Newport Beach didn't find out its obligation for 2016 until this year.

Matusiewicz projected the 2017 liability to be $317 million and the 2018 amount to drop to $307 million.

As it did this year, the city plans to include an $8.8-million discretionary payment as part of its $34.5-million commitment. Newport started adding hefty payments this year to bring down the debt and stay ahead of interest.

"I don't think there's anyone that is paying it down as aggressively as us, except for those that may have issued pension obligation bonds or significantly borrowed from their own coffers and put a lot of money into the market all at one time, which I wouldn't particularly advise either," Matusiewicz said.

"What we're trying to do is bend the cost curve downward and not have to be in a position where we're paying upward near $50 million [annually] on our unfunded liability," he said.

Using the pay-more-now-to-save-later approach, the city should see about $25 million in net savings, in today's dollars, over the next 16 years, Matusiewicz said.

"That is dramatic," he said.

Twitter: @Daily_PilotHD

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