Center avoids budget cuts

Daily Pilot

Of all the cuts Costa Mesa city leaders may have to make for next year's budget, closing the Balearic Community Center is no longer one of them, City Manager Allan Roeder announced at Tuesday evening's budget study session.

To the applause of dozens of parents and their kids in the council chamber audience, Roeder told the council that Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard and the Newport-Mesa school board opted to keep the center open for another fiscal year and waive the $71,000 annual lease.

The good news is not without its caveats, Roeder warned.

While the center may stay open, Costa Mesa still needs to find ways to fund many of after-school programs and contract classes like karate and yoga, he said.

The center's future was one of the only high points of Tuesday's study session, with the remainder dedicated to council members discussing which city services and jobs have to be lost and which fees should be increased.

The fiscal crisis is "unlike almost any in the city's history," Roeder told the council during his opening comments.

Costa Mesa is looking to cut $16.4 million from its books in a third consecutive year of deep reductions. Among the items on the chopping block is about 71 full-time city jobs — a 20% reduction equal to one-fifth of the city's full-time workforce.

Both sales and property taxes — two of the municipal budget's primary funding sources — are lower than city officials anticipated.

Another issue is growing pension costs. The city's contribution to the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) increased this year and will grow annually for at least the next four years.

City officials have found ways to fill about half of the $16 million hole, but are looking to union negotiations and rearranging some salaries for other solutions.

Roeder told the council that the local hotels and businesses are willing to discuss raising the transient occupancy tax, a levy on hotel stays, and increasing business license fees.

A budget session targeted to residents is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday with the City Council scheduled to approve a final budget Tuesday.

Officials also announced the results from the citywide residents' survey on budgeting priorities.

Of the less than 300 responses, the highest priorities were after-school programs and saving police officers' jobs.

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