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$2.4 million in cuts proposed in memo

Costa Mesa CEO Tom Hatch's recommendations still leave shortfall of about $900k in preliminary budget.

May 31, 2011|By Joseph Serna, joseph.serna@latimes.com

COSTA MESA — To help close a projected $3.3-million budget shortfall, the city could rely on money from drug busts to fund a new police dispatch server and withhold money for equipment replacement.

Facing a City Council determined not to use reserves to fill the deficit, Costa Mesa Chief Executive Tom Hatch in a memo Tuesday recommended about $2.4 million in cuts to the preliminary budget before its eventual adoption later this month.

The city would still face a shortfall of about $900,000.

Hatch recommended saving about $40,000 by closing the city pool between October and March, relying on about $280,000 from narcotics seizure revenue to fund a new computer for the city's police dispatchers, and not injecting $1.9 million into the equipment replacement fund.

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He also recommended cutting about $200,000 to hire a consultant to update the city's general plan.

Hatch's cuts were barely touched on during Tuesday's study session on city expenditures. Instead, the council members criticized how the city balanced its books in past years. Costa Mesa has spent more than $30 million in city reserves and shifted numbers around in past budgets to save money on paper, if not in reality.

It's time to pay the piper, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer said.

Righeimer maintained his argument of past months that the city's staffing levels have to match the fiscal reality.

Councilwoman Wendy Leece agreed that the city can't afford to play with the numbers, but emphasized that any study of reduced staff must include a study on the effects to city services.

The council will discuss additional cuts to the preliminary budget later this month.

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