Divided Costa Mesa council approves $163.2 million budget amid pension-debt concerns – Orange County Register

COSTA MESA A divided City Council approved a final version of the city’s $163.2 million budget that includes such priorities as the Lions Park project, public safety and overseeing the city’s group and sober-living homes.

The budget for fiscal year 2017-18 is around $18.6 million more than the current one.

The council approved the budget on a 3-2 vote Tuesday, June 20, with Jim Righeimer and Allan Mansoor dissenting.

“This budget is frugal but functional,” Mayor Katrina Foley said. “It’s fiscally sound and based on good conservative principals.”

Righeimer and Mansoor said the city needed to try and pay down its rising pension debt, which was estimated at $246 million in 2015.

“When we hire an employee here, we hire them for 60 years — the 30 years they work with us and 30 years or so that they’re on a pension,” Righeimer said. “We have to quit thinking we’re an employment agency.”

The city is expected to save around $820,000 by making larger payments to the California Public Employees Retirement System.

The general fund makes up the largest portion of the budget — over $124 million — with over half of that going toward public safety.

A $3.2 million transfer from general fund reserves to the city’s self-insurance fund will bring the fund’s net balance to zero, officials said.

Councilwoman Sandra Genis said she would support the budget “with reservations,” voicing concerns about its positive revenue projections, which had increased by $564,087 since the council reviewed a preliminary budget in May.

Sales tax revenue is expected to dip $1.03 million, according to a staff report.

New revenue sources included in the budget are from voter-approved Measure X, which allows medical marijuana businesses to open in an industrial zone west of Harbor Boulevard and north of the I-405 freeway.

Those businesses will each pay close to $50,000 to obtain the necessary permits to open. None have opened so far.

The city will incur…

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