CITY BUDGETS : A SPECIAL REPORT : A Balancing Act Between Less Money, Rising Costs

Times Urban Affairs Writer

The Irvine City Council is considering new and increased fees, with concerts at Irvine Meadows and boxing at the Irvine Marriott among the targets for the levies. In Huntington Beach, some parking rates are going up. It's the same story all over Orange County.

With few exceptions, cities wrestling with 1987-88 budgets that refuse to balance are being forced by reductions in anticipated sales and property tax revenues to hike fees and tap reserves--a sign that the county's economy is slowing down.

Most of the county's 26 cities still are expecting to take in more taxes in the 1987-88 fiscal year than in the current year--4% to 8% more, in most cases. But city officials say that that rate of growth is only about half of the previous year's and is not enough to cover rapidly escalating expenses.

There are a few bright spots. Santa Ana, for example, has managed to find enough money to launch a new program to spruce up neighborhoods.

But, faced with a state law requiring balanced budgets, most city councils are struggling to maintain services at current levels.

Garden Grove Assistant City Manager Mike Fenderson summed up the situation described by many of his counterparts in other cities when he said: "We see the economy weakening . . . I see where serious problems will have to be addressed in the future."

Here is a city-by-city look, in alphabetical order, at how the budget-balancing is going at city halls across the county.

Cypress Existing Sources of Revenue Cover Increase

A $12.4-million proposed budget for fiscal 1987-88 goes before the Cypress City Council tonight, up from $11.4 million in 1986-87, according to finance operations manager June Lambert.

The new budget includes money for one additional police officer and two new police dispatchers at a cost of $431,000, she said.

The money needed to finance the increase over the current fiscal year will be generated by existing revenue sources, she said. An expected 6% increase in sales tax revenues should bring in $2.6 million; the total for this year is $2.45 million. Property taxes could bring up to $2.1 million, 9.75% above this year's $1.9 million.

Contributing to this story were Times staff writers Marcida Dodson, La Mont Jones Jr., Lanie Jones, Ray Perez, Mark I. Pinsky, David Reyes, Bob Schwartz, Nancy Wride and Jonathan Weisman.

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