Over the objection of one council member, the City Council on Wednesday night adopted its 1998-99 budget, which includes spending $353,000 to establish a new department.
Under the $52.2-million spending plan, the city intends to hire four people to help run a new 12-person Administrative Services Department, and transfer eight employees from other departments. The council approved the budget on a 4-1 vote.
Administrative services employees will deal with personnel issues and absorb the duties from the finance and public services departments, such as handling legal claims against the city, operating computer and other information systems, and overseeing maintenance of the city's facilities and equipment.
Councilman Bill Liebmann opposed spending nearly $158,000 to cover the annual salaries of an administrative services director and his secretary, when the work could be done by the other two new employees.
"Overall, this is an excellent budget," he said. "I expressed concerns about one particular area--whether it's time to bring on another department or not. I still have a disagreement on that matter."
But the other council members disagreed, contending that the city's growing population has created a workload too heavy for the existing 115-person municipal work force to handle.
"Additional management is urgently needed," City Manager William Little said before the vote. "As the city grows, we will continue to experience a rise in claims . . . the extra workload would be difficult to absorb."
The proposed $52.2-million budget, up 2% from fiscal 1997-98, projects revenue of $49.4 million from all sources next fiscal year--about the same amount as this year's revenue.
In its reserve fund, the city expects to have $51.7 million at the start of the fiscal year July 1, although two-thirds of that amount is earmarked for previously approved capital improvement projects.
The new budget calls for about $17.4 million worth of capitol improvement projects, including $2.7 million to enhance storm drainage. Of that amount, the city will spend $550,000 to improve the drainage system serving Mardigras Court and Butterfield Street, an area that received major storm damage in February.
An additional $1.4 million will be spent to repair the city's sidewalks and streets, and $750,000 is earmarked for the continued construction on the Flynn Road offramp from the Ventura Freeway.
In other action, the council discussed allowing the city's water ratepayers to determine whether they want to subsidize reduced rates for farmers.
Eighteen Camarillo farmers say they will be put out of business without the subsidy, which would cost 10,000 city water customers less than 60 cents each per month.
Rates are expected to increase for the agricultural use of water from 83 cents per cubic foot to $1.14--or an increase of about $500 per acre.
The council was considering mailing ballots to residents no later than Aug. 24; they would be due back at City Hall by Sept. 23.
Last summer, a similar vote-by-mail election was held that enabled seniors to continue to receive reduced water rates.