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City Council looks to discuss five-year plan

With the budget passed, council now focusing on plotting a long-term course of action.

July 08, 2011|By Joseph Serna, joseph.serna@latimes.com

COSTA MESA – With months of acrimonious budget debate in the rearview mirror, the City Council in a Tuesday study session is turning its view toward the future.

The City Council will discuss its revenue and expenditure plans for the next five years and how to reinvest in capital-improvement projects.

"A five-year plan gives you the ability to adjust in advance," said Councilman Steve Mensinger. "A five-year plan is like a coloring book with dots. If your revenue drops, or it doesn't, you just move your five-year plan."

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The city will also conduct its first cash-flow analysis, part of the pledge a majority of the council has made to always pass a balanced budget without spending cash reserves.

For a city admittedly overly reliant on economy-dependant sales tax income — it's more than 40% of revenue — looking five years down the road is part of the city's recovery from the recession, Mensinger said.

"It's a prospective tool," he said. "Everyone uses it in the private sector. It addresses all the infrastructure we've been talking about forever. Candidly, the reason we have the road issues is we didn't have a five-year plan [before]."

The council passed a balanced budget two weeks ago amid broad changes to how the city operates and adjusts to a weaker economy. Costa Mesa has reduced staffing by more than 140 people in recent years and spent $32 million of its cash reserves to offset losses in revenue.

The city is also looking at outsourcing many of its basic city services, reducing the police department and folding its fire department into a countywide joint-powers agreement.

Much of the council majority's aim is to minimize projected increases in city employee pensions while building up reserves and reinvesting in park and street repairs.

The council will discuss its plan at 4:30 Tuesday in City Hall, 77 Fair Drive.

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