The estimated cost of two special elections and a lawsuit filed against Mission Viejo by a city council member is virtually the same amount as the city's current budget shortfall of $510,000.
The two special elections -- one for the recall of former Mayor Lance Maclean and one for the Right to Vote initiative coming up in June -- are estimated at a total cost of $473,000, according to City Manager Dennis Wilberg.
Additionally, Councilwoman Cathy Schlicht filed a lawsuit against the city over the ballot argument against the "Right to Vote" initiative, which City Attorney William Curley estimates will cost about $40,000.
The grand total is $513,000, $3,000 more than the current budget shortfall.
The deficit will affect city services like storm drain cleaning and city park maintenance. According to a staff report on the midyear budget review, storm drains are going to be cleaned less frequently, and plants in city parks will see less replacement.
The reality is not lost on city council.
"City staff went painstakingly through the city budget," said Mayor Patricia Kelley, in reference to the additional cuts staff made because of the extra costs.
Dale Tyler, a proponent of the recall and one of the authors of the Right to Vote initiative, said the cost of the special election for the initiative was the city council's fault - because they didn't pass it when it came before the council.
Schlicht defended the special elections, calling them a "right of the people."
"If you don't like the initiative process, then go to our state assembly or Sacramento and have them do a constitutional amendment," Schlicht said.
She also complained that the council always brings up the cost of removing Lance Maclean, but never the costs he incurred as Mayor, like $400,000 for a rose float. Schlicht was off in her number - the OC Register reported that $300,000 was set aside for the Rose Float in the 2007-09 budget.
"Who knows what else he would have spent in the future," Schlicht said.
-- ADAM ELMAHREK