Budgets cut decisions loom over city

OCEANSIDE — Budget cuts are hitting city departments and services hard for the second year. After $6.4 million was axed from the city budget last year, another $4.4 million in cuts will be decided on in June. Outside agency funding cuts, department and program reductions and citywide cutbacks are on the table. City departments are asked to cut their budgets by 20 percent and police and fire by 5 percent.
Council looked at proposed budget cuts April 28 and asked for more time to consider options. While most of the proposed cuts will be OK’d, there are ongoing negotiations with the police and fire department bargaining units and consideration on how to avoid a 45 percent cut to KOCT Community TV.
“It’s going to be the toughest time in city history and the darkest days in program services if we don’t get the city budget under control,” Councilman Jack Feller said.
Residents spoke out about the need for police and fire department services, community television, the literacy program, community swimming pool hours and public art.
A solution has already been reached to continue the READS literacy program. The literacy coordinator position will be retained and volunteer tutors have agreed to take on more of the operational responsibilities to keep the program going.
To restore funds to KOCT Community Television, the city will work with Cox Cable to look into doubling the pass-through fees citizens pay to Cox Communications. If the fee is raised from 35 cents to 70 cents, it will add $500,000 to the television station budget, which is the same amount that the city will no longer fund.
If $500,000 is not found for KOCT, the station will cut staff and programming by more than half. “We will not be the station we are now,” Tom Reeser, KOCT executive director, said. “I hope City Council understands we’re much more than City Council meetings. I don’t think it’s reflective of the diverse number of programs we provide.” Emergency information, election coverage, children’s programming and live broadcasting of events are currently produced and aired on KOCT.
Details on negotiations with police and fire departments were not shared.
Fire department cuts presently on the table include a reduction in overtime hours by replacing Station No. 8’s three-person rescue engine with a two-person engine to allow reduced staffing. No impact on response times or boundary drop agreements with neighboring cities is expected with this cut.
Proposed police cuts include the reduction of three detectives, one sergeant and one lieutenant. Cutting these positions will eliminate the robbery/homicide unit, increase sergeant supervision to 14 detectives, and create a mid-level supervisory gap between sergeants and officers. Proposed police personnel cuts carry a word of caution from the department that they could lead to problems in the future.
With budget cuts still up in the air, council members urged city employees to consider paying their share of Public Employee Retirement System dues, which the city currently pays, to help balance the budget.
A revised budget will be brought back to council within 30 days.

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