Oxnard Faces Budget Deficit of $5 Million

TIMES STAFF WRITER

On the same day the Oxnard City Council voted on how to make up a $2.7-million shortfall in this year's budget, city officials announced a projected deficit of $5 million or more in next year's spending plan.

The new shortfall announced Tuesday is made up of $3.4 million in overestimated revenues, such as sales taxes; $530,000 in previously budgeted cuts that were not made, $1 million for street maintenance programs needed to qualify for state transportation funds and about $600,000 in unanticipated expenses, officials said.

Councilman Michael Plisky blasted the city's administrative staff for grossly overestimating its revenues. "This is the sixth or seventh time in a row we've had to take money out of our reserves

because staff won't face up to reality and make some serious decisions," he said.

But his colleagues defended the city's management team, blaming the recession for the shortfall in the $64-million spending plan for fiscal 1992-93.

"The country and the state are facing the worst recession since the Great Depression," said Councilwoman Dorothy Maron. "Nobody knew it was going to drag on for so long."

City officials did not say where cuts would be made to deal with the shortfall, but some of the deficit could be made up by eliminating cost-of-living adjustments for city employees, said budget analyst Grace Magistrale Hoffman.

City Manager Vernon G. Hazen is scheduled to report to the council on budget alternatives April 21, and the council will discuss options on May 21, 22 and 23.

"We are coming to the council earlier rather than later," Hazen said in presenting the bad news. "This way, we have more time to take corrective action."

The council voted 4 to 1 Tuesday to approve an emergency plan to make up the $2.7-million deficit in fiscal year 1991-92, which ends June 30. The city officials blamed the shortfall on reduced sales tax revenue and a reduction in state funding.

To cover the deficit, the city will defer completion of $1.1 million in public works, including replacement of firefighting equipment, an asbestos abatement program and the rehabilitation of the Carnegie Center.

An additional $400,000 will come out of a loan repayment from the redevelopment department, $300,000 from jobs left vacant and $878,000 from the city's $6-million reserve.

Plisky opposed the plan because it required dipping into reserves.

"I don't think our staff will get the message until we run out of reserves," he said.

Mayor Nao Takasugi replied: "Nobody likes to use reserves, but the city had the foresight to build them up during the good times so we could use them in times like this."

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