ORANGE COUNTY IN BANKRUPTCY : Daxon Calls for Selling Off Assets, More Privatizing : Recovery: Acting treasurer's list of options, drawn up at supervisors' request, pointedly doesn't include raising taxes.


Acting Treasurer Thomas E. Daxon has suggested that Orange County sell major assets such as John Wayne Airport, privatize some of its services and make annual budget cuts to recover from its unprecedented financial crisis.

Daxon presented a preliminary list of $1.6 billion in cost-saving and revenue-raising options to the Board of Supervisors this week--options that do not include raising taxes.

"I think clearly there was interest on the part of supervisors to find options that would not require a tax increase and would minimize the pain as much as possible," Daxon said Friday.

The treasurer said the list of options are still being researched in detail and are not ready to be formally presented. He said the goal is to come up with feasible alternatives to tax increases, which some business leaders say will be needed for county's economic recovery.

"I cannot guarantee that we cannot get out of this without raising taxes," Daxon said. "But there are other things to look at that may get us out of this. We need to look at every single possibility."

The list of Daxon's one-time money-generating options includes:

* Selling John Wayne Airport for $400 million.

* Selling county landfills and waste-management operations for $800 million.

* Enacting $200 million worth of pension reform, possibly by devising a new system. No specifics were provided.

* Selling $120 million worth of county-owned land.

* Making $15 million in scheduled cuts in April instead of July.

The options also include a number of budget-cutting measures that would save the county money on an annual basis.

They include: the privatization of $25 million worth of county services such as paramedics, a 12% reduction of spending by each county agency to save $70 million; and the elimination of $30 million worth of unspecified, one-time expenditures.

Supervisors on Friday praised some of Daxon's ideas, although none of the suggested options appeared to come as much of a surprise.

"We'll certainly take a look at these numbers,' said Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez, the board's chairman. "As far as the categories he describes in his options, that is not new. But, the amounts vary a little bit. . . . He's on the higher end of some of the numbers. It's good news if the numbers are accurate."

Supervisor Marian Bergeson said, "I think our acting treasurer has come up with a proposal that is very feasible and one that will be considered and very likely implemented. I think everything should be on the table."

Bergeson said that the county will need to first act upon options that will result in immediate cash flow--and that top priority should be placed on options requiring the least amount of legislative change.

"We have to be extremely cautious and have good data in order to make these decisions," Bergeson said. "We want to make certain that whatever we do is in the long-term, best interests of the county."

Said Supervisor Jim Silva, "(Daxon's proposals) have some merit and some of them will be implemented in the very near future."

Supervisor Roger R. Stanton said Friday that he had not yet studied Daxon's proposals in depth but said he was not in favor of any "across-the-board kinds of things that are not rational."

"I think we need to look at each option individually and decide if we should or should not do it," Stanton said.

Daxon stressed that the list is preliminary and that the options were researched at the request of the supervisors.

"It is not my role in any sense to make the final decision," Daxon said. "I am not in any shape or form trying to usurp their authority. I am responding to their requests."

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