By Jacob Wilson/Garden Grove Journal
You know times are tough when last year’s bad becomes this year’s good enough.
The Westminster City Council approved the city’s 2011-13 budget and set aside funds for 2011-12. The city will operate with a $1.7 million general fund deficit for the next 12 months. Councilmember Tri Ta called the budget “reasonable” and noted the city will be able to offer the same level of services without raising taxes.
“This budget is not perfect but it’s the best one staff was able to put together,” Mayor Pro Tem Tyler Diep said. “I’m inclined to vote for this.”
Last year Diep criticized and voted against a similar budget.
Outgoing finance director Paul Espinoza summed up the reason for the deficit. “General fund revenues aren’t keeping pace with expenses,” he said, adding that revenues have increased modestly, just not enough.
Ironically, the new police station has added to the deficit.
“Last year some police officers were paid through redevelopment funds because they were overseeing the construction of the station,” Espinoza said. “Now that station is finished, they can only be paid through the general fund.”
Finance director and four other positions are being dissolved as a part of reorganizing the city manager’s office. The city is creating three new positions and the city clerk will take on a city treasurer role.
Other than that, things will pretty much stay the same. City workers will not receive cost of living increases but there will be no cuts to existing salaries or layoffs, Espinoza said.
Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies will be an ongoing concern for city finances because redevelopment money would be taken by the state. As a safeguard the city has begun transferring Redevelopment Agency assets and responsibilities to its newly-created Housing and Public Financing authorities.
Economic development director Chester Simmons said that city staff is working on protecting redevelopment funds so that the city can continue to pay for local projects with local money. In a related move, the council approved the purchase of property at 15721 Goldenwest Circle for just over $9.4 million. The property will be converted into a Westminster Police Department firing range and evidence storage facility at an estimated cost of $6 million.
Councilmember Frank Fry missed the meeting because he had been hospitalized due to difficulty breathing. After nearly a week in the intensive care unit at Los Alamitos Medical Center, Fry was taken off a ventilator and moved to a normal room on June 8.
“He’s coming along great,” Mayor Margie Rice said. “He’s tough.”
Fry was first elected the city council in 1966 and has served three terms as mayor.