Hawthorne Expecting to Lay Off Workers : Deficit of $2.5 Million Projected for City's 1989-90 Budget Because of Fees, Taxes Shortfall

Times Staff Writer

Hawthorne will probably have to resort to layoffs to offset at least part of a projected $2.5-million deficit in the city's $44.8-million budget for 1989-90, City Manager R. Kenneth Jue has told the City Council in his annual budget message.

The city's 1989-90 budget is "in serious trouble," he said.

The deficit occurred because the city received $1.1 million less in paramedic fees and sales taxes than anticipated for 1988-89, and an equal shortfall is projected for 1989-90, Jue said.

To offset the deficit, Jue has asked all city department heads to reduce spending by 10% and has urged the City Council to increase revenues by raising city fees.

Even with those measures, Jue warned in a somber, three-page letter accompanying the two-volume budget document that he has "requested the personnel director to research layoff procedures since it will probably come to that."

Personnel Main Target

Mayor Betty J. Ainsworth said in a telephone interview that the council is reviewing Jue's "recommendations and considering the measures we will have to take to make up the lost revenues." The council is expected to set the date for a public hearing on the budget at its meeting Monday, she said.

The city already has cut its capital expenditures, travel and supply costs, so "personnel will be the main targets of any additional slashes," Jue said in his letter.

Cutting personnel will mean cutting services, and he warned: "the reduction in personnel will result in limited hours that staff will be available to the public and will likely cause delays on construction inspections."

Hawthorne's per-capita expenditures are the lowest of 10 full-service South Bay cities, Jue reported. A survey of 1986-87 figures, the most recent available, shows that Hawthorne spends $361 a year for each resident of the city, while the per-capita expenditures of neighboring full-service cities average $545, he said. A full-service city provides all of its own public services rather than contracting for police and fire protection, for instance.

Fee Increases

A committee of top City Hall administrators called together by the city manager to advise on the budget recommended that the council approve fee increases totaling $2,575,000 to resolve the deficit.

The need to increase fees or impose new ones "has never been more paramount," Jue said.

Proposed expenditures for 1989-90 reflect "zero growth" in all city departments except the Police Department, which plans to hire five more sworn officers, Jue said.

"One's immediate reaction to a budget deficit is to cut services," Jue said. "However, I feel that we are operating all departments at minimum staffing levels already, and we vitally need five additional police officers just for starters." It will cost about $300,000 to hire five officers, Jue said.

Over the next several years, the city plans to increase the police force to 100 officers from 85 to cope with population growth and an increase in crime, he added.

In 1988-89, the city had expected $700,000 in paramedic fees and received $160,000, and anticipated sales tax revenues of $6.6 million but received only $6 million, for a deficit of about $1.1 million, Jue said in his letter. A similar shortfall in 1989-90 and the $300,000 for additional police services makes up the $2.5-million deficit in the current budget.

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