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Community Commentary: Newport Beach mayor has mid-year update

July 01, 2010|Keith Curry

As we reach the halfway mark for 2010, I thought it would be a good time to stop and report to the residents of our city on our progress to make Newport Beach an even better place to live. At the beginning of the year, I promised that Newport would end the year with a leaner, more efficient, more effective and better-managed city government. We began with the adoption of a 15-point Fiscal Sustainability Plan.

The City Council has followed the plan, and it is producing results. After projecting a possible $8-million deficit, we end fiscal year 2009-10 with a balanced budget without using operating reserves. For 2010-11, our new budget is lower than 2009-10 by $16.5 million, including an $8.7-million reduction in the operating budget. The new budget is also projected to be balanced without the need to use operating reserves. We still have work to do, but between December and June, we reduced the city workforce by the equivalent of almost 37 full-time positions, with more to come using retirements where we can.

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Budget reductions were accomplished through workforce reductions, contracting out street sweeping and meter reading, energy-efficiency improvements, service reorganizations and improved contract administration. We were also able to take advantage of a better bidding climate for some of our one-time capital improvements, bringing those costs down below projections, often by 20% to 25% per project.

Working in partnership with our fire, lifeguard and police associations, we have negotiated for our public safety employees to pick up $900,000 in annual pension expenses, up from zero just last year. Our other employees already contribute to their pension programs. We have also negotiated for newly hired fire, lifeguard and police employees to pick up an even higher percentage of pension costs. This is a critically important first step in controlling our long-term pension expenses.

Our city employees have worked or will work without raises for periods ranging from 12 to 42 months, depending on the bargaining unit. Because of these sacrifices, we have been able to avoid reductions in police and fire protection, library hours and core park and recreational services.

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