Curry: City needs to tighten belt

Newport Beach Mayor Keith Curry talked about slashing spending and creating a more efficient city government during lean economic times in his State of the City address Friday night at the Newport Beach Marriott.

“My friends, we are a community that is used to plenty and affluence,” Curry said in his speech during the annual Mayor’s Dinner sponsored by Speak Up Newport. “But in 2010, we are called to leadership at a time of unprecedented economic disruption and challenges. Our residents are hurting, our businesses are hurting and yes, our city budget is hurting.”

In the coming months, the city will take steps to reduce its employee overtime and training costs, eliminate some consulting contracts, as well as trim its water and energy costs and cut nonessential city programs, Curry said in his speech.

One cost-cutting program involves converting city trucks to use clean fuels, which will shave off 24% of Newport’s fuel costs, Curry said.

Newport Beach also is in the midst of negotiating with its employee unions to have city workers shoulder more of their pension costs, Curry said.

“Your council and management team is acutely aware that even with our strong economic base, the current level of public costs related to retirement benefits is not sustainable by any local government in California, including ours,” Curry said.

Newport Beach will have about $8 million less to spend in the coming fiscal year compared with last year’s roughly $200-million budget because of slumping tax revenues, city officials said earlier this month.

Newport Beach experienced an 18% decline in sales tax revenues in the last fiscal year, according to a city report.

The downward trend has continued into the current fiscal year — with sales tax revenues slumping an additional 8.4% compared with the previous year.

Curry vowed that he and other city officials would work to make the city run better with fewer resources this year.

“By the end of 2010, we will have a city government that is leaner, most efficient, more effective, and better managed than when we started the year,” he said.

The mayor also touted the city’s efforts to support local businesses and boost property values through capital improvements as a way to reinvigorate the local economy.

“Simply put, without a healthy underlying economy, we cannot sustain our high levels of city services,” Curry said.

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