By Jacob Wilson/Garden Grove Journal
The city’s budget is almost $49 million but projected income is just under $45.2 million, leaving a deficit of over $3.7 million to be covered by reserves. Based on current projections, the city’s reserve fund, which is over $21 million, will last until 2018 if no changes occur.
Though the budget was passed unanimously and without debate Wednesday, the path to approval was long and arduous. The council met several times, including three special sessions, to debate possible layoffs and discuss ways to close a $10.4 million budget gap.
On June 13 the council approved a Fiscal Stabilization Plan that included the layoffs of 67 employees but saved the city almost $7 million.
The dissolution of the Westminster Redevelopment Agency in December, low sales tax revenues and stagnant property tax figures are to blame for the deficit, in that order.
Because of low tax revenues, the city faced an almost $4 million deficit even before the loss of redevelopment funds, which were taken for the state budget. Once RDA money was gone, the deficit swelled to $10.4 million.
With the budget passed, the new hot button issue in Westminster might be the San Diego (405) Freeway.
The council pulled a resolution to officially oppose Alternative Three of the Orange County Transportation Authority’s I-405 Improvement Project. That idea would add two express toll lanes each way, widening the freeway by four lanes.
It doesn’t mean the council has given up though.
“We’ve really got to fight them and let them know we don’t want it.,” Mayor Margie Rice said.
Councilmember Andy Quach wants the people to take the fight to the OCTA.
“Several years ago we were able to stop them in their tracks with town hall meetings,” he said.
The third, and most controversial, alternative calls for converting the carpool lanes into express toll lanes, adding another set of toll lanes and adding one more regular lane on either side.
Alternative One would simply add one regular lane in each direction. Alternative two adds two lanes each way.
Most cities along the freeway are against alternative three because local businesses will be affected, mostly because of lost parking spaces, according to Westminster Traffic Commissioner Diana Carey, who also chairs the I-405 Citizens Ad Hoc Committee.
Those cities include Westminster, Fountain Valley, Seal Beach and Costa Mesa.
A vote is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 13. That date may change depending on an OCTA meeting with the city of Long Beach, Carey said.