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Public is invited to budget talks

Community Commentary

June 06, 2010|By Allan Roeder

Over the next two weeks, the city of Costa Mesa will be considering a series of actions in adoption of the coming year's budget that will impact everyone in this community.

I was encouraged to submit my thoughts on this important subject to the Daily Pilot in the hope of engaging the broader Costa Mesa community in the important decisions ahead. Irrespective of whether one is of the perspective that the issue is one of a "spending problem" versus a "revenue problem," everyone should understand that there is a problem that demands attention.

The coming year's budget is the third in succession in which we face declining revenues — a situation familiar to most businesses and households in these recessionary times. The city has steadily reduced operating expenses, trimmed payroll, reduced reserves and deferred capital purchases while doing our best to limit their impact on direct service to the public.

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Together we've made the changes necessary to conduct our public financial business responsibly and in some respects are doing a better job with less. City employees were part of this in terms of reductions in salaries or relinquished previously negotiated raises along with reductions in benefits. The public workforce today is smaller today than at any time in the past 25 years.

With the beginning of this current budget year, our forecast was that prior sharp declines in tax revenues would begin to level off. As of March of this year, revenues were, unfortunately, still declining, which prompted additional action by the city in freezing positions and suspending planned expenditures.

While these actions saved an additional $5.1 million, the economic decline will still require the use of at least $3 million in reserve funds. By the end of the current fiscal year, the city will have used about $30 million in reserve funds over the past three years.

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