Costa Mesa Outsourcing Debate: Privatization plan only part of solution

March 29, 2011|By Steve Mensinger

Editor's note: The Daily Pilot has decided to publish opposing commentaries on Costa Mesa's outsourcing plans. Wednesday's print edition features arguments against the proposal from Geoff West, publisher of A Bubbling Cauldron, a local blog. Thursday's print edition will feature arguments in favor of the plan from Councilman Steve Mensinger. Both pieces can be read together on

Question: Which Costa Mesa official made this statement:

"Having already reduced non-personnel operating expenditures to a minimum level from prior years, management was faced with the necessity of significant reductions in personnel costs …

"[T]here has been a substantial reliance on the use of reserves [$35 million over the past three fiscal years] to avoid more significant cuts in [city] programs, services and personnel. Reserve levels now stand at a point where they can no longer be safely accessed for on-going operating expenses."


Answer: Then-City Manager Allan Roeder painted this stark financial picture in the introduction of the city of Costa Mesa's 2010-11 budget.

Unfortunately, the city's financial health has only gotten worse.

Because revenues for this fiscal year, which ends June 30, have been less than projected, the city is facing a $1.4-million shortfall. And next year, another budget deficit projected to be at least $5 million looms.

The $5 million does not include necessary new technology, new capital improvements or new services. It also does not include deferred maintenance spending that was set aside the past few years and can no longer be ignored. The city has even stopped paying for fertilizer and weed abatement products for the grass in its parks and sports fields.

In other words, we could be looking at an estimated $15-million budget shortfall.

All of this means Costa Mesa will be forced to make even more cuts.

For this reason, the City Council voted March 1 to send notices to 213 employees — nearly half the city staff — that their jobs would be outsourced in six months.

Contracts with employee associations require a six-month warning period, and the council felt that the six-month clock needed to start ticking because of expected budget shortfalls for the next fiscal year.

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