Several Newport Beach city departments will likely face moderate budget cuts starting in July, according to a budget proposal presented to city leaders this week.

The $241-million proposed budget includes $8 million in structural cuts, City Manager Dave Kiff told the City Council Tuesday.

The city is also about to end its fiscal year with a $4.4-million surplus, an accomplishment that drew praise from the City Council.

“The state of California is ending the year with a $16-billion deficit,” said Councilman Keith Curry. “We’re ending it in a $4.4-million surplus, and I really think that speaks well to the quality of the managers in each and every one of our departments.”

The spending plan for fiscal year 2012-13 includes software upgrades for finance, human resources, public safety, permits and employee evaluations. Spending on facilities, infrastructure projects and community services would also increase.

The city attorney’s office proposes to spend $400,000 less next year, a reduction of 15 percent.

Community development is also facing cuts, a $500,000 reduction that eliminates four positions: a building inspector, assistant planner, planning tech and administrative assistant. One position would be added, a real property administrator to handle lease and appraisal activities for the city.

The city’s utilities budget would take a be reduced by $1.3 million hit, with five positions set for elimination: a mechanic, grounds worker, utilities specialist, safety officer and utilities operations manager.

Libraries, cultural arts, recreation and public works would all maintain their current budget levels. A facilities manager would be added to the Public Works Department.

The meeting also came with other good news, including a one-time $2.5 million cash influx to the city from the dissolution of the ABLE police helicopter program.

City coffers will also get an extra boost after firefighters agreed to pay more into their retirement benefits. Additional pension contributions from firefighters are expected to save $325,000 over the next two years.

More than 100 firefighters will more than double the amount they pay toward their pensions to the maximum allowed, 9 percent of pay. New hires would pay 10.5 percent of salary and receive benefits based on a 2 percent of salary at 50 years formula, as opposed to the current 3 percent. The new agreement applies to the next two fiscal years.

City leaders showed appreciation to the firefighters for agreeing to less pay.

“It’s become fashionable in some quarters to vilify public employes today, but our employees have been partners with us. They have been good partners,” said Curry.

“They have made sacrifices that are significant financial sacrifices to help this city preserve its financial stability and its sustainability.”

The final city budget is scheduled for approval on June 12.


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