Huntington Beach anticipates $20-million drop in general fund revenue for fiscal year 2020-21

Brana Vlasic hands out American flags for Surf City’s Fourth of July Parade in 2019.
Brana Vlasic hands out American flags for Surf City’s Fourth of July Parade in 2019. The city is looking at modifying its famous parade this year, during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
(Gary Ambrose)

The city of Huntington Beach anticipates a $20-million drop in general fund revenue for the 2020-21 fiscal year, largely due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

City Manager Oliver Chi presented a proposed 2020-21 budget during a study session at Monday night’s City Council meeting. Chi said the city’s general fund budget revenues are projected at $216.9 million for the 2020-21 fiscal year, $20 million less than the 2019-20 projected revenues of $236.9 million prior to COVID-19.

The new fiscal year begins July 1.

“Economic impacts of COVID-19 for us here in Huntington Beach are substantial,” Chi said. “They are real. We’ve seen revenue drops that we can only describe as violent.”

Chi said many economists are now forecasting a longer “U”- shaped recovery from COVID-19, instead of a “V”-shaped recovery.

A budget balancing plan presented by Chi included a city workforce reduction of at least 5%, as well as a hiring freeze, city operating budget cuts, bond refinance and reducing general fund transfers.

Huntington Beach has 294 city employees currently eligible to retire. Chi said if at least 15% of them would participate in a CalPERS early retirement program, it would result in annualized savings of at least $6.2 million.

Chi said the last time the city instituted an early retirement program in 2010, more than 100 people took advantage.

Many businesses in downtown Huntington Beach were boarded up Sunday night, when no major looting was reported during a protest, which was deemed an unlawful assembly by the Huntington Beach Police Department.

On April 6, the City Council approved raises for more than 700 city employees on a tight 4-3 vote. Councilman Erik Peterson said he had concerns about the early retirement plan.

“In our current fiscal situation, our businesses in Huntington, our residents of Huntington, they’re all hurting,” said Peterson, one of the dissenters in April’s vote. “First, we give them a raise, and now we give them a golden parachute? It just doesn’t seem right.”

Several council members, including Mayor Lyn Semeta, said they wanted to make sure a $1-million Public Employees’ Retirement System Section 115 Trust, which was not in the budget, would continue to be issued.

“It’s always been a minimum of $1 million,” Mayor Pro Tem Jill Hardy said. “We’ve got a huge hole in PERS, and that $1 million is a huge priority for me personally ... We need to be committed to that and find that.”

A revised budget will be presented for formal City Council consideration at the next scheduled meeting on June 15.

Fourth of July Plans

Huntington Beach Director of Community Services Chris Slama presented a proposal to the City Council for the city’s Fourth of July plans, due to challenges related to COVID-19.

The city is looking at a modified Fourth of July neighborhood parade, consisting of two 15-car motorcades moving south to north from 8 a.m. to noon. The parade would honor veterans, local elected officials, high school seniors and other notable community figures.

Slama also detailed plans for a home decorating contest, on which members of the public could vote online via social media.

The theme for this year’s celebration is “Surf City Dreamin’.” The Festival at the Pier, Fourth of July run and traditional fireworks show have been canceled.

This year would mark the 117th annual Huntington Beach Fourth of July parade, traditionally known as the largest parade west of the Mississippi River.

Free Parking for High School Seniors

Huntington Beach will be providing free beach parking for high school seniors and their families on June 10-11, the days of drive-through high school graduations in the city.

Huntington Beach Union High School District graduating seniors will be able to take advantage of photo opportunities at the beach and are asked to enter at Beach Boulevard, for parking at south beach lots between Beach and Huntington Street. Students must show their current high school identification at the gate.

Library Reopens for Curbside Pickup

Huntington Beach Central Library reopened for curbside pickup on Monday.

Library patrons can place an item on hold via the library’s website, or by calling (714) 842-4481. Once the hold is confirmed, park in the lot and text “HERE” to (714) 880-7040 to check-in.

Items will then be left on the tables in front of the main entrance to pick up.

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