NEWPORT BEACH : Council to Discuss Budget Remedies

The City Council, facing a $4-million budget shortfall and the elimination of 25 jobs--will meet Monday to discuss how best to use its limited funds.

The city is projecting an $84-million operating budget for 1995-96.

State transfers of local property taxes have cost the city $3 million a year, City Manager Kevin J. Murphy said. Reduced shares of other state-collected fees have cost another $1 million a year, and increased county landfill fees are expected to add another $532,000 a year to the burden, Murphy said.

City officials will have to find ways to reduce staff salaries and benefits--a prospect that could make employee contract negotiations difficult. Eight public employee union contracts expire between the end of June and the end of the year, the city manager told the council Monday.

The council earlier approved merging six city departments into three and shaving 25 positions from city employment rolls, 18 of them by contracting for tree maintenance. The personnel and city clerk's offices will each lose one staff member. Two senior managers, including Planning Director James Hewicker, will retire. Two library positions and one recreation job will also be eliminated.

The city staff has been reduced by 14% over the past six years, and further cuts cannot be made without reducing service, Murphy said.

"For any further staffing cuts outside of public safety . . . we would have to decimate the other departments," he said.

The council will have a study session at 4 p.m. Monday to discuss the budget and ideas for future cuts. Murphy has suggested possibilities such as privatizing trash collection, cutting back on or sharing police helicopter programs and changing the way Fire Department services are provided.

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