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Oxnard Council Approves Pared-Down Budget

June 15, 1989|MEG SULLIVAN | Times Staff Writer

The Oxnard City Council approved a bare-bones budget for 1989-90, despite predictions that nearly $3 million in cuts would hobble the city's police and fire departments.

Expressing deep reservations, the council voted 4 to 1 Tuesday to accept the $57.5-million budget, which attempts to compensate for dwindling revenue by cutting such services as street maintenance and freezing hiring.

"We all feel very badly about the budget," Councilwoman Dorothy Maron told a near-capacity crowd. "But there's nothing else for us to do."

The lone dissenter was Councilwoman Ann Johs, usually a strong fiscal conservative, who cited concerns over public safety.

'Have Reservations'

"I have some reservations about how we're going to handle emergency situations," she said later. The city's fire and police departments "have been understaffed for years."

The city would have had to spend $2.8 million of its reserves to maintain services at the level provided under last year's $55.9-million budget, city officials said.

Police and fire officials predicted that the cuts would force them to postpone indefinitely filling 16 vacancies and to discontinue a police foot patrol in the city's blighted Southwinds neighborhood. They also said one of the city's six fire stations might have to be closed a portion of each week.

A Southwinds resident who last year led a campaign to rid the neighborhood of its prostitution and drug trade warned that the step would jeopardize recent gains there.

"We still need this vigilance," Dennis Waldman said of the foot patrol. "The criminal element maintains runners that come into the area to access its vulnerability."

The foot patrol "is a deterrent," he said.

Other Cutbacks

In addition to cutting the two-man foot patrol, Police Chief Robert Owens said he also plans to discontinue his department's truancy patrol, which last year was responsible for 1,800 arrests, and its drunk-driving unit, which accounted for 800 arrests over the same period.

To cope with eight vacancies, Fire Chief Richard Smith said the department would close one fire station two days a week.

"It will increase our response time, and if you have increased response time, that means risk is increased," he said.

However, $4.5 million in improvements to the city's barrio, La Colonia, emerged unscathed from three days of budget hearings last week.

City officials have blamed dwindling revenue on a recent loss of drunk-driving fines to the county and the loss of two funding sources in the mid-1980s. In 1986, the council phased out a controversial utilities tax that would have brought the city an additional $2.5 million. A year earlier, the city lost federal revenue-sharing, which was bringing the city $2.2 million.

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