HUNTINGTON BEACH : Uberuaga to Propose City Services Freeze

City Administrator Michael T. Uberuaga said this week that spending will be frozen for most city services in the next fiscal year, which "essentially will mean the quality of services will go down" because of the city's projected growth.

Only seven weeks into his new job, Uberuaga told about 50 members of Huntington Beach Tomorrow that the city's revenues have not kept pace with growth.

He pointed out that 31% of the city's general fund comes from property taxes and 20% from sales taxes.

Huntington Beach is primarily a residential city, he said, but its financial situation can be improved by reinvigorating the Huntington Center and other existing office and retail complexes.

"Having a general fund dependent largely on property tax is good for stability . . . but that's not conducive to growth," he said.

By contrast, in Concord, Mass., where he served as chief executive before coming to Huntington Beach, sales taxes provided 40% of city revenues, and only 13% came from property taxes.

"And that was a very fiscally sound city," Uberuaga said, pointing out that Concord features a thriving mall, as well as other successful commercial, retail and industrial developments. "Most cities that are doing well today are like that."

Despite the relatively gloomy fiscal picture he presented, Uberuaga was well-received by members of the four-year-old organization that has called for limiting development and preserving parks and beaches.

Uberuaga told the group at one point that questions about growth management, downtown redevelopment, specific development projects and the financial state of the city could only be settled through "shared decision-making" among council members, city staff officials and residents.

"We will give you maximum support if you execute the philosophy you've demonstrated tonight," group member Bob Winchell told Uberuaga.

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