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Compton Gives Crime Control Budget Priority

June 23, 1988|MICHELE FUETSCH | Times Staff Writer

COMPTON — Crime control, be it through new police officers or beefed up youth programs, would get the lion's share of increased funding if a proposed $119.4-million budget is adopted by the City Council next week.

The 1988-89 budget, introduced Tuesday night at the first of two public hearings, calls for seven new police officers, which would bring the police force to 145, up from 131 two years ago. Total cost for the new officers would be $350,000 or $50,000 to train, equip and pay each one.

The Police Department would also get four new bilingual communications operators, four new police clerks and a mechanic to maintain the department's new helicopter.

Last year, the council spent more than $1.3 million to buy three helicopters, two of which will not be delivered until later this summer.

Top Priority Item

"Public safety, that's the top priority in this community," said City Manager James Goins, who drew up the proposed budget that is to be voted on by the council after a public hearing Tuesday .

Funding for 12 new part-time recreation aides is also included in the budget so that the Parks and Recreation Department can expand after-school and youth programs. The city, according to police, is home to 35 gangs. "So," said Goins, "we want to keep our parks open as a diversion to keep (the youth) from standing around on the corner."

Goins also recommended spending $53,000 to promote and assist neighborhood block clubs, which police and other city officials view as valuable tools in fighting the gang and drug-related activity.

Nearly $1 million is earmarked for new police substations in three city parks, West, Gonzalez and a yet-to-be-named park in the Sunny Cove housing development. Two years ago, police substations were established in Lueders and Kelly parks and city officials say the constant police presence has eliminated gang activity there.

In Lueders and Kelly, however, buildings already existed for the substations. For the three new stations, the city must acquire some land and build facilities that will include community centers and, in Gonzales, a police communications unit.

Other Priority

Beautification is the city's other priority, said Goins, so the budget contains money for 13 new gardeners to maintain a street landscaping project the council has under way.

Both Goins and City Controller Timothy Brown said that revenue projections for the coming fiscal year support the proposed $119.4-million budget. Last June, the council adopted a budget of $95.8 million, only to be told two months later that layoffs might be necessary because there was not enough revenue to underwrite the spending plan.

A fiscal crisis was avoided in part because the city created a public finance agency and issued $40 million in redevelopment bonds. About $6 million of that was shifted into the city's general fund. Not all of the $6 million has been spent, Brown said. This year, he said, about $8.2 million from the public finance agency bond issue will augment other city revenues, which come from such things as property, sales and gasoline taxes and from the sale of permits and licenses, as well as the collection of fines.

There is no guarantee that this year's proposed budget would be a realistic measure of city finances. Last year, for example, the $95.8-million budget was roughly 20% under what the city actually spent.

The $1.3 million spent on helicopters last year was not figured into the original budget, nor was a 7% wage increase that was granted retroactively to all employees. The pay increase alone added $2.4 million to original estimated salary costs of $34.5 million.

This year, however, said Tyler, the budget staff has included an estimated 5% salary raise in the salary projections for each city department, except fire, the only department that has settled its labor contract.

Within the $119.4-million proposed budget is $7 million for capital improvements, including the purchase of several police cars, ambulances and public works vehicles, said Assistant City Manager Edmund F. Sotelo. "The useful life of our vehicles has just about expired," he said.

As in past years, one of the biggest items in the proposed budget is redevelopment spending, which is down slightly from last year's nearly $30 million. This year's budget calls for the spending of $26.1 million, with $23.5 million of that going for capital outlay.

By comparison, the total police budget proposed for the coming year is $14.7 million, of which about $13 million is for salaries. Fire Department spending in the proposed budget is $6.7 million, with $6.3 million of that for salaries.

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