Council Discusses City Budget

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Council and staff members discussed the city of Newport Beach budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year during a study session Tuesday.

The city performance plan states that the budget is balanced while increasing investment in crime prevention, neighborhood beautification and community-serving facilities.

The proposed 2013-14 fiscal year operating budget is $217,631,300, a 1.18 percent increase from last year, plus the capital improvement budget of $61,286,576 a 36.56 percent decrease.

Including $18,020,266 of internal charges, the total city budget is  $260,897,610.

The budget report also noted that pension and Other Post-Employment Benefits will be “addressed aggressively and comprehensively.”

The proposal for increasing the contributions from department directors toward their pensions would result in about a nine percent reduction in their take home pay, Kiff said.

Outsourcing and staff reductions will also continue.

Staff is proposing 736 full-time positions, down 16 from last year, Kiff explained, while adding four sworn police positions. There is also a reduction of the equivalent of 14 full-time positions made up of part-time jobs.

Kiff also asked for $35,000 to implement pay increases for at least three director positions that were shown to be below median, as recommended by a Fox Lawson study.

“Because of good performance, they should be at median or above,” Kiff said, and also for experience and how long they’ve worked for the city, he added.

The council also discussed the Balboa Theater. Balboa Performing Arts Theater Foundation is restoring the city-owned theater, a project that needs $6 million to fund. At the meeting, staff suggested the city offer a $3 million challenge loan, Kiff explained, repayable over 10 years at no interest.

Several members of the public also commented in favor of the revitalization of Balboa Theater, including former councilman Steve Rosansky, who is now the president of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Councilman Mike Henn said it would be a significant entry into the arts and cultural scene for the city.

There was some concern from councilman Ed Selich about whether or not community donations would sustain the theater or if the city would have to support the facility in the future on an annual basis. That decision would need to be made up front so the city isn’t backed into it later on down the road.

Also discussed was moving operations of NBTV to Newport Beach & Co., along with $150,000 per year of cable franchise fees.

There would be a “must carry” list of shows, Kiff explained, but the remainder of the air time would be left up to NB & Co. to decide how to fill, while adhering to the city attorney’s guidelines on programming.

“It couldn’t be something inconsistent with operating a government channel,” Kiff said.

The “must carry” list includes Council meetings, key issues in the city, Meet the Mayor, and the Pet Adoption show.

There is quite a bit left over to fill, Kiff added.

“We tell Newport Beach stories,” NB & Co. president and CEO Gary Sherwin said as he explained the concept. “What we see this as being is an opportunity to create new content that tells the story at a deeper level than maybe what currently exists…We have a lot of great stories to tell.”

The company would work as the city’s “marketing agency,” Sherwin said.

They have developed programming ideas that will enrich the businesses in the community, enhance tourist activity in the city, and highlight items of interest for residents, said Visit Newport Beach board of directors chairman, Tom Johnson.

The current city TV is underutilized, Mayor Keith Curry said, and should be improved.

Selich agreed that the programming needs to be improved, but wants to see other options. He had some “real serious reservations” about the NBTV proposal, he said.

“My impression of these channels was it was to educate and inform the citizenry, not use it for commercial promotion of the city,” Selich commented. “Seems to me it’s going beyond that… Also, it seems like we’re creating more of a cozy, if you will, relationship with Visit Newport Beach, which has been a separate entity from the city that has been funded by the hotels and been used for promoting hotels. So, I’ve got some real serious concerns about it. I don’t know if this is the best way to do it.”

Henn disagreed and said he was fine with expanding the reach of NBTV.

All of the council members agreed they would like to discuss the item further and look more into the idea.

“We’re happy to discuss whatever the needs are of the city,” Johnson said.

The final proposed budget should go before council on June 11.

 

The performance plan and a more detailed budget can be accessed on the city’s website at newportbeachca.gov, under the city government tab in the city salary and budget documents section; or click here.

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