LONG BEACH : Budget Plan Would Add 38 Police, Hike Fees

City officials, under pressure from almost every politician to increase police protection for safer streets, have set aside money in a tight city budget to hire more police officers in the new fiscal year.

But officials have suggested cuts in most other city departments and increases in utility rates to balance the city’s general budget for 1994-95. The proposed budget is $286 million, down from this year’s $294.8 million.

The spending plan, which was unveiled this week, earmarks more than $3 million to add 38 police officers and 26 civilian employees to the Police Department.

City officials have proposed increases of 8% in natural-gas rates, 5% in refuse fees and 2.5% in the water and sewer rate. The increases would cost the average residence an additional $3.12 a month. The proposed budget also would eliminate at least 100 city jobs and require most of the 22 city departments to reduce spending.


The staff recommended, for example, that the city’s main library close for 12 Sundays during the summer months.

The Parks, Recreation and Marine Department budget would be trimmed by $2 million. No parks would be closed, but fewer staff would be available to help with recreation programs, City Manager James C. Hankla said.

The spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1 was released Tuesday, two weeks before Mayor Ernie Kell was scheduled to present the budget to the City Council. Kell, who lost his bid for reelection, said he was releasing the spending plan early to give the council and two candidates in the mayoral runoff race--Beverly O’Neill and Councilman Ray Grabinski--a chance to suggest changes.

“When you’re not part of the process to set financial priorities during the year, this puts you in a strange position,” O’Neill said of Kell’s move. “But I’m glad to get the chance to review.”


The 100 city jobs slated for elimination are vacant as a result of a hiring freeze that began in November, Hankla said. But the city may have to lay off four full-time employees and some seasonal workers if there are no more retirements or resignations by July 1, he said.

The budget would have been even tighter, but a change in accounting procedures will provide a onetime gain of $9.8 million next year.

Hankla blamed the budget crunch on a sluggish economy and the state’s raid of municipal coffers over the past two years. He said he believes the regional economy has “bottomed out,” and that sales tax revenues should begin to pick up next year.



Council Tightens Policy on Members’ Spending

City Council members have cut up all city credit cards and tightened the city’s policy for reporting expenses in the wake of criticism of council spending, particularly on out-of-town trips.

The spending became an issue in last month’s elections, as two incumbents were accused of taking extravagant trips at city expense. Council members have denied any abuses, but at their first meeting after the election they canceled city credit cards issued to them and the city’s top three administrators.

Council members also will have to submit detailed reports of their spending within 90 days after they return from a trip, and prepare a report on its purpose and benefits.


The crackdown was suggested by Councilman Ronald S. Kernes, who was criticized for traveling, golfing and dining at city expense. Kernes narrowly won reelection. The other incumbent on the ballot, Al Fuentes, was defeated.

“This makes the council accountable for what they spend,” Kernes said before the council unanimously approved the policy. “And if there’s something in there you’re ashamed of, it should not be in there.”

In the past, council members and officials have used city credit cards to charge meals, lodging and other travel costs.