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Council Cuts Services and Hikes Fees, but Eyes Raises

June 23, 1988|CHRIS WOODYARD | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — City Council members this week passed a $1.1-billion budget that raises an assortment of public fees and cuts back several expenses.

Then, after complaining of their inability to better finance necessary services, council members voted to consider increasing their own city-paid insurance benefits and boosting the salaries of top administrators.

Vice Mayor Warren Harwood asked the council's finance committee to examine whether the present $10,000 life insurance policy is adequate for council members. He said members deserve more insurance because their part-time elective jobs are stressful and potentially dangerous.

"I think our responsibilities as council people put us in a position where there are times even when our personal safety can be related to our job," Harwood said.

There is always a possibility that he might want to respond to an oil refinery fire or another disaster in the middle of the night, Harwood said. Also, the stresses of his public job could cause illness, he added.

The current council policy covers members around the clock, but lapses when they leave office, Harwood said.

Also at Harwood's request, the council Personnel Committee will look at whether three elected and two appointed city officials should have their salary levels adjusted.

The elected officials and their current salaries are City Atty. John Calhoun, $94,977; City Prosecutor John VanderLans, $87,618, and City Auditor Robert Fronke, $80,332. The appointed officials are City Manager James C. Hankla, $112,500, and City Clerk Shelba Powell, $50,208.

Harwood said that some of the officials, especially Powell, may have low salaries in comparison to their counterparts in cities of similar size.

In the meantime, the council granted the five city officials a cost-of-living pay increase that could amount to at least 3% when city employees receive a similar increase on July 1.

The budget, developed by Hankla, includes $3 million in rate and fee increases that will touch nearly every resident of the city.

Among the increases due to take effect July 1 are a 4% hike in garbage collection rates. The average monthly household charge will increase by 35 cents to $9.24.

Also, parking violators whose cars are towed by the city will pay $10 more, or a total of $60. Storage fees at the towing yard will increase by $3 a day to a total of $10.

An $86 surcharge will be added to building fees as the city moves to a centralized permit system.

Marina slip fees will increase 4% to $7.07 per foot of boat length and airport fees to travelers as well as air carriers are due to increase nearly across-the-board as recommended in a recent study.

The only dissenting budget vote came from Councilman Evan Anderson Braude, who said he objected to increasing vehicle storage fees.

When the next budget takes affect July 1, the number of city employees will increase by five, to a total of 4,857. But some departments will be cut. One of the cutbacks that received attention during the two-day budget hearings was a $113,790 reduction in library staffing.

Crucial for Children

Art Gottlieb, representing Friends of the Long Beach Public Library, said that maintaining the strength of the libraries is crucial to the development of the city's children.

"The proposed cuts in funding won't result in the locking of the doors of any library buildings," Gottlieb said, "but will mean losing some of the keys which unlock treasures of reading for those kids and those keys are the librarians."

Sid Solomon, president of Long Beach Area Citizens Involved, said that the city should be adding, rather than subtracting, to library funds. He also said that the council has not adequately explored ways of finding revenue to pump into the library budget.

Councilman Clarence Smith said he is concerned about the reduction in special programming in the libraries. He asked that city staffers pay special attention to libraries in disadvantaged areas.

Despite those concerns, the council went ahead and approved the library system cuts anyway. But members gave a clear signal to Hankla that they expect him to erase the library cuts and those in other departments if the budget picture improves.

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