Workshop looks for ways city can cut costs

OCEANSIDE — The city held a budget workshop Sept. 24 to see where future savings can be found with city pension and benefit costs increasing by $3 million a year and anticipated revenues increasing by only $1 million a year.
Currently, cuts to balance the city budget are decided on a year-to-year basis. The workshop proposed a three-year plan to cut $4.5 million from general fund expenses.
The proposed plan failed to get a three-fourths council majority vote to pass with Mayor Jim Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez voting no.
Proposed cuts included city employees paying their full retirement costs, reducing all city salaries by 5 percent or more, reducing fire department staffing, consolidating two fire stations, and contracting out a list of city services to private enterprises including ambulance services, park custodial services and fleet maintenance.
These recommendations were made based on a study of the city budget by PFM group consultants.
Over a dozen residents spoke out against the cuts in services, fire and police. Some speakers offered suggestions on what should be cut from the city budget.
“If you shut down fire stations I suggest you close the one in your neighborhood,” Chuck Lowery, Oceanside resident and former councilman, said. “Get rid of council aides. Stop buying new vehicles for city departments. Shut down city hall and open it one day a week every two weeks.”
Speakers strongly opposed reductions in firefighter/paramedic services and police services.
Both departments have already made cuts over the last few years to help balance the city budget. The police department has cut 35 positions.
Sanchez questioned the accuracy of the budget study by PFM. She said dollar amounts used in the study were dated and did not take recent budget cuts into account.
“We are a general law city and have never run on a deficit,” Sanchez said. “We have never passed a budget that was not a balance budget.”
City council OK’d a $71,000 statistical assessment of fire services with Tridata consultants in a 3-2 vote with a no vote from Wood and Sanchez.
“Four and a half million (in anticipated deficits) is a real number we need to come up with a real answer,” Councilman Jerry Kern said. “We do need to look forward and see how to address it.”
The assessment of fire services by Tridata should be completed by February

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