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Carson Considers Several Proposals to Cut Projected Deficit

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the face of a projected deficit of $3.7 million in next year’s proposed budget, Carson officials are suggesting layoffs, a hiring freeze, higher fees for city services and cuts in city programs.

Among the proposals are reductions in park hours, swimming pool programs and festivals in parks. Building Code enforcement would be reduced, the Community Center would be closed Sundays and the city Boxing Center would be shut.

Even with the cuts, the city would still have to dip into its reserve funds for almost $1 million.

“It is a very serious matter,” Mayor Vera Robles DeWitt said.

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None of the proposed cuts have been approved by the City Council, and Finance Director Lorraine A. Oten declined to say how many employees might be affected.

The current budget woes follow protracted problems with last year’s budget, which was approved in January, more than halfway into the fiscal year.

At that time, city officials said they would run a deficit of $5.5 million, which would be covered by reserves. However, because of better-than-expected sales tax revenues and a freeze on capital outlays, that bleak projection has been revised. The deficit is expected to be about $1 million when the fiscal year ends June 30, Oten said; reserves are projected to be about $8.4 million.

After DeWitt was elected mayor by the City Council last month, she and newly elected Councilwoman Juanita McDonald vowed in inaugural speeches to set the city’s financial house in order.

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“I knew then that the financial condition of the city was getting critical. We have to get a handle on spending,” DeWitt, who has been chairing workshop sessions on the budget, said last week.

McDonald said the council is “working every week to see how we can trim the fat. My main campaign plank was to balance the budget on time and in the black. I suggest that we put a moratorium on (new) spending until we get this budget in hand.”

If the City Council approves the proposed reductions and fee hikes submitted by department heads last week, the initial $34.5-million budget proposal would be reduced to $31.7 million, and the deficit of $3.7 million would shrink to $889,000.

Oten said a downturn in the sales of American automobiles during the last quarter of 1989 at large dealerships in Carson was a major factor in reducing projected sales tax revenues, on which the city depends for about half of its revenues.

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“The city of Carson has a great number of programs,” she added. “We have to go and look at each department line item by line item and see what can be reduced to have a balanced budget. It is not an easy process, for the department heads, for the council, for anyone.”

The largest proposed cuts would fall on the Parks and Recreation Department, whose budget proposal of $9.1 million would be reduced to $8.1 million.

One proposal would cut the number of city-sponsored festivals from 12 to six, for a savings of $32,000. The popular festivals include Samoan Flag Day, Cinco de Mayo, Tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. and a country-Western fair.

To save $75,000, the year-round aquatic program at Scott Park Pool would be scrapped, affecting Carson High School, the city’s Aquatics swim team, swimming classes and other programs that use the pool during winter months. To save $20,000, wading pool hours would be cut at city parks and restricted to five days a week during the summer, instead of the current seven-day-a-week program. Shutting down the Boxing Center would save $100,000.

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Other savings in parks and recreation would be a $175,500 cut to eliminate a newly created five-person maintenance crew for baseball diamonds, a $122,400 cut eliminating a five-member tree-trimming crew, and a $72,800 cut dropping 14 maintenance aides for city parks.

Closing the Community Center on Sundays, not hiring an assistant manager for the facility and cutting back on promotion would save $136,000. Eliminating a bus driver, and recreation, administrative and clerical staff would save $196,000. The city would also save $65,000 on its electric bill by turning off some lights on median islands.

In addition to cuts, Oten said the city is likely to increase charges for recreation “not to make it prohibitive but to make it subsidized less by the city.” Also targeted for increases are business licenses, building and safety permits, and community redevelopment approvals. Oten said figures for proposed fee increases have not been set.


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