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HUNTINGTON BEACH : Tight Budget Perils Computer-Data Plan

Officials this week warned that the city’s budget squeeze may force them to delay the final stages of a five-year, $2.5-million computer-conversion plan that is expected to eventually trim the city’s annual operating costs.

The City Council this week approved the second phase of the plan--an effort to computerize the city’s maps and other geographical data--that began in August.

The council also agreed to consider including the next step of the conversion in its 1991-92 budget.

But despite the long-range savings that the program may offer, City Administrator Michael T. Uberuaga told council members that the city may be unable to come up with the $832,000 projected cost for the next phase. He blamed the possible roadblock on the city’s anticipated spending constraints for the upcoming fiscal year that starts in July.

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The computer system “clearly has utility,” Uberuaga said, “but we’re going through some tough times in our budget.”

Uberuaga, since becoming the city’s chief administrator last February, has called for a number of spending cuts and revenue increases he says are needed to fend off what could be a budget crisis.

As a result, the computer conversion may have to be placed on hold for up to two years, Deputy City Administrator Robert Franz said.

The new system, similar to programs in place in Fountain Valley, Santa Ana and Yorba Linda, would convert to computer the city’s existing maps of streets, water mains and utilities.

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The computerized data would save staff time because it would make maps easier to access. Once completed, the conversion is expected to save the city an estimated $250,000 in operating costs each year, officials said.

As scheduled, the system would be completed in early 1993, and the city’s savings would begin to exceed the project’s cost in 1998. Those dates would be pushed back if the conversion is delayed, so it may take as long as a decade before the city realizes any cumulative savings from the project.

To date, Huntington Beach has spent or budgeted $93,000 for the computer conversion.


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