Staff speaks on cuts

Costa Mesa city employees packed the Council Chambers during Tuesday’s study session after learning of the job cuts and layoffs proposed to balance next year’s budget.

Some spoke on their own behalf, putting a face to their job titles.

“I’m Susan Guzzetta, fire protection analyst, single mother of two and identified for layoff,” Guzzetta told the City Council.

In an effort to plug a $16.4-million projected budget deficit in the next fiscal year, Costa Mesa is looking at cutting 51 full-time positions, or reducing them to part time, and eliminating 26 additional part-time jobs.

“This is a matter that each of us take extremely personal,” City Manager Allan Roeder said. “It’s not a business decision.”

The reductions are preliminary and will first have to be approved by the council.

But even if all the proposed services and jobs were eliminated, an $8-million budget deficit would remain.

Since the downturn of the economy began, Costa Mesa has relied heavily on its reserve to balance the budget. Over the past three years, the city has used $30 million from its reserve, Roeder said.

“We’re going to have to find another way,” Roeder said. “I simply don’t think it’s prudent for us to continue to rely on the reserve to balance the budget.”

In addition to the potential job cuts, city leaders also proposed cutting all youth sports programs, all playground programs, the red-light camera program and residential street maintenance program; closing the city’s pool for eight months; and reducing the city’s animal control staff.

One animal control employee’s contributions and efforts to save animals were counted by the dozens who spoke in favor of saving her job.

“Helping and saving animals = Officer Yolanda Macias,” read a poster.

For the first time in many years, Costa Mesa must also reduce its projected property taxes by $2 million, Roeder said.

“It’s a reflection in what happened in the housing market,” he said.

Councilwoman Katrina Foley said the city is partly at fault for its position because it has not, in many years, took the initiatives to increase the hotel occupancy and business license taxes.

Each council member is asked to prioritize budget cuts using a 25-0-point scale system to rate the importance of services.

Community members can also participate in the process by downloading the form from the city’s website, www.ci.costa-mesa.ca.us.

The forms are due May 25. The results are expected to be available by the end of this month.

The next budget study session is scheduled for June.


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