A frustrated Buena Park City Council last week unanimously passed a $54 million budget for 2010-2011 and a $55 million budget for 2011-2012 that leave the city approximately $5.5 million in the red each year.
Sung Hyun, director of finance, told the council that even with several cost-cutting measures already in place, the city will have to pull $2.5 million out of its reserves, which contain about $15.8 million, to help cover its expenses.
Hyun said city staff will return to the council in two to three months with a plan that reduces the remainder of the deficit.
Councilman Don McCay said the council was reluctant to pass a budget that requires the city to dip into its reserves, but said the time for discussion had come to an end.
“While we hate to pass a budget based on ‘we’re going to talk about how to make it less in two or three months,’ there’s not much alternative,” McCay said. “It’s time to pass it.”
Hyun said city staff will continue discussions with the unions representing city employees and may have to consider a “possible labor force reduction and reorganization” as part of the deficit reduction plan.
The city is already eliminating 15 positions spread across six departments through an early retirement incentive program. The hardest hit departments are Police and Public Works, each of which is losing five employees.
Mayor Art Brown said he hopes the city will be able to avoid layoffs and cutting services when the plan is implemented.
“Hopefully it’s not too drastic, but whatever it takes to keep us afloat and keep the employees employed … and provide services to the public,” Brown said.
McCay said he believes the only way to balance the budget is by offering fewer services to residents.
“I think the people of Buena Park are going to have to face a future with diminished city services,” McCay said. “Sooner or later we’re going to have to do less. We can’t continue to ask fewer and fewer people working fewer and fewer hours to do the same amount of work. Something we’re doing now, we can’t do in the future.”
Councilman Jim Dow expressed annoyance with the state government, which he partially blamed for the city’s financial situation.
“We’ve got to get the state under control,” Dow said. “Because we would not be in the position we are — we work hard to save our money and to have good reserves and they just come along take it away from us. Until something’s done with the state to get them under control, I don’t see anything changing. Hopefully everybody will remember that when it comes time to vote.”
— JUSTIN VELASCO