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Council looks to contract out services

Officials may vote Tuesday to save money and outsource 18 city services, which could mean layoffs for all those employees.

February 26, 2011|By Joseph Serna, joseph.serna@latimes.com

The list is long and the jobs are many, but presumably so are the savings.

On Friday afternoon, the Costa Mesa city clerk added a last-minute addition to next week's City Council agenda: a notice to all employees in 18 city services that come council approval Tuesday, they will be laid off in six months.

City employees have been aware council members were looking for areas to cut spending. The city attorney told the council earlier this month that if they wanted to contract out for some services instead of keeping them in-house, they'd have to make a choice by March 1 to realize the savings as early as possible.

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According to the staff report, the City Council Budget Working Group (Mayor Gary Monahan and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer), recommended Costa Mesa contract out for firefighting, animal control, building inspections, overseeing the city jail, park maintenance and street maintenance, among other services.

More than 100 city employees have been laid off in the last three years, police department divisions have been closed and the minimum staffing at the city's fire stations has been lowered.

It's not clear how many city workers would be laid off with an approval Tuesday, because some could be employed by whatever outside contractor the city brings in, such as the Orange County Fire Authority's proposal to bring Costa Mesa firefighters into their ranks.

There's also "bumping rights," where less-tenured employees are laid off before long-termed employees, according to the staff report.

Even then, approving the notice Tuesday wouldn't guarantee the listed services will be outsourced, the staff report said. City staff are planning a broad restructuring of Costa Mesa, and contractors for the services up for outsourcing have to be found. The city is also permitted to rescind its outsourcing notice whenever it wants.

City officials have said that outsourcing services is less about balancing this year's budget gap — plugged two weeks ago when the police helicopter program was dissolved, netting $2 million — and more about preparing for a public pension onslaught in the years to come.

About $15 million of the city's $90 million budget pays for employee pensions. In the next five years, that figure could rise to more than $25 million, according to financial department projections.

City Services Recommended For Outsourcing

Fire department services

City jail services

Street sweeping

Special event safety

Graffiti abatement

Information technology services

Park maintenance

Telecommunications

Parkway and median maintenance

Building inspection

Fleet maintenance

Reprographic services

Street maintenance

Graphic design

Facility maintenance

Payroll services

Animal control

Employee benefit administration

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