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Huntington Beach passes 2020-21 fiscal year budget

The Huntington Beach City Council approved a 2020-21 fiscal year budget on Monday night.
The Huntington Beach City Council approved a 2020-21 fiscal year budget on Monday night.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

The Huntington Beach City Council voted to improve a city budget for the fiscal year 2020-21 during a special meeting Monday night on a 5-2 vote.

Mayor Pro Tem Jill Hardy and City Council members Mike Posey, Patrick Brenden, Barbara Delgleize and Kim Carr voted in favor. Mayor Lyn Semeta and Councilman Erik Peterson were in opposition after the council members disagreed on workforce reduction options to address a $6.2-million budget deficit for the new fiscal year.

The $359-million budget, submitted by Huntington Beach City Manager Oliver Chi, includes $216.9 million in general fund revenue. Both figures are down by about 6% from the adopted budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year, as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues.

“For the next couple of years, I think we are going to see a depressed economic environment,” Chi told City Council members during the special meeting.

Chi presented the council several options for workforce reduction designed to reduce current city staff, which includes 294 eligible retirees, by about 5%.

All of the council members disagreed with using a CalPERS early retirement option.

Hardy, Posey, Brenden, Delgleize and Carr voted for the budget option, which will use a self-designed voluntary separation plan providing $1,500 for every year of service, plus six months worth of insurance coverage. Chi identified it as the most cost-effective plan, though it may not achieve enough program participation to balance the budget.

“I do see the benefits of having some of our employees that are ready to retire, giving them the incentive to go ahead and do that,” Hardy said. “There’s a lot of advantages to doing it that way rather than laying off, both in time and in the way the cost savings that are recognized. I do see this as a good investment.”

Semeta and Peterson said they were against using incentives to meet the staff reduction goals.

“I still can’t support any type of benefit to enhance employees to leave, enhance their chances to leave,” Peterson said. “It just doesn’t seem right.”

Semeta said she favored going the layoff route, rather than using the voluntary separation plan.

“We have to make the hard decisions as leaders,” she said. “It’s not easy to have layoffs or furloughs, but that’s what the other cities [in the county] are doing.”

As part of the budget approval, the City Council also voted to put off funding two additional police officers and one police lieutenant until November.

Black Lives Matter speakers heard

Dozens of public comments during the meeting were in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“At the last City Council meeting, they spent about four hours talking about reopening Huntington Beach,” said resident Brittany Baddon, who is Black.

Baddon, 32, spoke before council for the second straight meeting.

Thousands of protesters have converged in Orange County to speak out about the death of unarmed Black man George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police, as well as other Black men, women and children who have died at the hands of police.

“They spent maybe 15 or 20 minutes speaking on the topic at hand, which blew my mind, because 90% of the people that were there were to speak out for the movement,” she said.

“The thing is, Huntington Beach has such a long history of racial tension, racial history, white supremacy. It’s really not addressed, not talked about. It’s kind of just swept under the rug. But me and my family, we’re from Huntington Beach, and we’ve all experienced this over and over since we were little kids. No one wants to talk about it, so I thought it was important that we keep showing up to these City Council meetings to show how real it is and how painful it is.”

Chants of “Black Lives Matter” could be heard outside the council chambers for several minutes following the public comments.

At the June 15 council meeting, Carr and Delgleize submitted a resolution condemning “the unconscionable actions of the Minneapolis Police Department that led to the death of George Floyd” and supporting “people of color [and] all people who protest against injustice.” It passed by a 6-1 vote, with Peterson dissenting.

Carr’s proposal reaffirming the city’s 1996 “Declaration of Policy About Human Dignity,” which promotes equal rights for all, passed unanimously.

Orange County Human Relations hosted an “HB Student Day of Dialogue” on June 23 to discuss the recent protests, community policing and fostering unity. Guests included Carr, Hardy and Huntington Beach Police Chief Robert Handy.

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