Newport budget aims to save $9M

The Newport Beach City Council slashed the city's deficit from $11.7 million to $2.7 million when it adopted its 2010-2011 fiscal year budget Tuesday night.

Through contract negotiations with employees' unions, by instituting an early-retirement incentive program and by making other cuts, city officials were able to make up shortfalls in property, sales and hotel tax revenues.

"I think we did it in a way that is going to be almost invisible to the people in the community," said Mayor Keith Curry.

Many of the other budget savings came from the city's early-retirement incentive program, which has eliminated 52 positions and is estimated to save the city $3 million in the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

The police department will be operating with a reduced staff, according to Chief of Police Robert Luman.

Two officers from an investigative crime-prevention unit will now be reassigned, he said during a break in the meeting.

"The same work will get done," Luman said. "It just won't be done quite as efficiently."

Another group of employees directly affected by the budget cuts are street sweepers.

City officials hired an outside firm to clean the streets and have reassigned three employees to operate other types of heavy machinery. The move is anticipated to save $500,000 per year.

"It's hard contracting out a service; these gentlemen had been street sweepers for a very long time," said Mark Harmon, city director of general services. "But these guys are now doing something similar."

Work will also be scaled back in pothole repair, tree trimming and landscape maintenance, according to City Manager Dave Kiff's presentation. He vowed to closely monitor the effects of those changes.

"We know how important it is Newport Beach looks like Newport Beach," Kiff said.

To make up the remaining $2.7 million hole in the budget, Kiff said that the city may reduce the flight time of its police helicopter, a cut that Costa Mesa recently approved, and it will try to negotiate concessions with a few remaining labor groups.

Representatives from the police labor associations and some other city employee groups are still negotiating with the city.

Kiff expects agreements with the police groups by early July and with the other groups by summer, he said.

"Our membership is doing what it can to help the city out," said Officer Dave Syvock, president of the Newport Beach Police Assn., before the meeting.

His members voted Monday to accept the tentative deal with the city, but he was unable to reveal the details.

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