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Hatch: No more city job hires

Costa Mesa's CEO says municipal workforce won't expand as long as he's in charge.

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

Editor's note: This adds that pension costs are going down based on city estimates.

COSTA MESA — Don't expect to see help wanted signs at Costa Mesa City Hall any time soon.

In a Wednesday night discussion with Mesa Verde Community Inc., Tom Hatch pledged to not expand the municipal workforce as long as he is the city's chief executive. Hatch will fill key vacant positions, such as police chief, but does not plan to grow the overall size of the workforce, which will likely be served by more contractors if the City Council's restructuring plans are put into effect.

"As long as I'm our leader, I'll make sure we don't do that," Hatch told Mesa Verde residents at their monthly meeting, which doubled as an opportunity to meet the first new city manager in about 20 years. "Our revenue sources don't allow us to expand. We can't afford to expand on recurring costs."

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Though the city projects an additional $2 million this year in sales tax revenue, the city's temperamental cash cow, and a steady income from its second biggest earner, property taxes, there are few if any options to generate new, significant amounts of money, city officials said.

Even with increased revenue, city leaders estimate a $3 million to $5 million initial shortfall. It's a mixture of increased spending on capital improvements and employee pension costs, among other things, council members argue.

However, the city’s own estimates show that pension costs are expected to decrease this next year because of increased employee contributions.

The city is in the midst of laying off 213 city workers for privatized workers as part of a broad restructuring to balance city expenditures and revenues.

The projected budget shortfall doesn't calculate in potential savings from outsourcing city services, which would take effect months into the next fiscal year.

Residents and the council will discuss the city's budgeted expenditures and potential cuts at Tuesday night's council meeting.

Hatch's no-hiring pledge came in the middle of his seven-point presentation on his goals for Costa Mesa since taking over in March. Of the goals he laid out, arguably only one has been accomplished: increasing communication and information for the public by hiring two temporary communications managers.

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