State of Newport assessed

For the city of Newport Beach, the economic situation seems on par with the country as a whole: small yet steady steps toward a slow recovery.

City Finance Director Dan Matusiewicz shared that summation at the Corona del Mar Chamber of Commerce's monthly breakfast meeting Thursday morning at the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club.

Representatives for Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, state Sen. Mimi Walters and U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher — all Republicans who serve districts that include Costa Mesa and Newport — and Newport's Deputy Public Works Director Pat Thomas were among the attendees.

To a small gathering of about 15 over coffee and pastries, Matusiewicz described the city's fiscal health as "very strong." He also explained the importance Newport's property tax revenue, particularly residential.

"The housing market continues to improve, and that's a very good thing for Newport Beach," Matusiewicz said. "Property taxes are our No. 1 source of revenue."

The lack of job growth, however, has probably been the "dark cloud hanging over the economy. I think folks are really just waiting for the job market to improve," he added.

He anticipates revenue increases in next year's sales and hotel-related taxes of about 5.5% and 7%, respectively.

As of June 2011, Newport's estimated unfunded employee pension liability — the difference between the promises to retired city employees and the estimated funding available to make those commitments — is $226 million, Matusiewicz said.

The downturn of the economy led to a significant decline in the pension fund's investments, he said, as well as the pension recipients themselves living longer than anticipated.

Matusiewicz said Newport's steps to alleviate the liability include reducing the city work force, outsourcing some city services and mandating that employees pay more toward their pensions.

Thomas gave a repeat presentation of the city's 2013-14 planned capital improvement projects list. Projects include Balboa Boulevard landscaping, traffic signal modernization, replacement of Big Canyon Reservoir's faulty cover and construction of Marina Park, which is planned for the Balboa Peninsula.

Howard Hills, from Rohrabacher's office, talked of the Costa Mesa congressman's stance on national issues, namely the current debate on 2nd Amendment rights and background checks for firearms purchasing.

Hills said Rohrabacher is open to discussing the issue but has concerns about the gun owner's privacy rights.

The next CdM chamber breakfast is scheduled for May 9.

bradley.zint@latimes.com

Twitter: @bradleyzint

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