Costa Mesa budget is higher, still balanced

The Costa Mesa City Council approved 3 to 2 a nearly $140-million balanced budget for the next fiscal year, with some disagreement arising from last-minute changes to the capital improvements funding.

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger won inclusion of three additional street improvement projects: $440,000 for the Mesa Verde Drive median, $69,000 for California Avenue's median and $100,900 toward Gisler Avenue's parkways. Funding for the changes don't add or subtract from the total budget amount, but will come out of a $1-million fund for the planned transformation of the downtown Neighborhood Community Center into a large central library.

Mensinger, Mayor Jim Righeimer and Councilman Gary Monahan voted to approve the 2014-15 fiscal year budget with Mensinger's changes. Councilwomen Sandy Genis and Wendy Leece dissented.

The pair made an earlier motion to accept the budget without Mensinger's changes, though it was rejected by the three councilmen.

Genis said she was worried about a gradual "nibbling away" of the community center conversion fund to finance "pet projects." She also contended that some Fairview Park projects, like adding more stairs to the unstable bluffs, were more important than Mensinger's suggestions.

Leece commented on a $20,000 feasibility study for permanent athletic lighting at Balearic Park, saying that when it was done years ago, it indicated that residents near the park found the lighting invasive.


Monahan responded that because lighting technology has improved in the decade since the last study, residents may find it less invasive now. He added that the Newport-Mesa Unified School District — which owns Balearic Park — might also want the lighting.

The funding for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which begins in July, is about $8.3 million more than last year's adopted budget, city officials said.

As has been the norm for Costa Mesa, much of its budget relies on sales tax revenue. City Hall estimates it will receive $50.2 million in sales tax revenue — about 46% of the $109-million general fund — next fiscal year.

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