Irvine is in the worst financial shape of its 19-year history, City Manager Paul O. Brady said Friday.
Lower-than-expected tax revenue and the sluggish economy will require several services to be reduced or eliminated in the coming months, and 45 full-time job openings that have been frozen to save money will remain unfilled. In addition, employees will be asked to forgo cost-of-living increases when contracts come up for renewal, Brady said.
Still, the recession hasn't hurt Irvine as much as most other Orange County cities, Brady said. The city's financial reserves have helped cushion some of the recessionary shock being faced by other cities, he said.
"The average person on the street, in my mind, will not see any reduction of service," Brady said in discussing the proposed 1991-93 city budget, which he unveiled this week for public comment.
The two-year, $533-million budget will go before the Finance Commission on Monday and again on May 20 for public review. The budget reflects a day-to-day spending increase of slightly less than 4% a year, about one-third less than the double-digit spending increases the city has enjoyed in past years.
The budget allocates money to city services ranging from mowing grassy street medians to providing 24-hour police services.
Among proposals to trim the budget are:
* Reduce bus service for senior citizens and the disabled by half.
* Close Adventure Playground, a vacant-lot-style playground used mostly as an after-school baby-sitting service for parents.
* Close community parks one hour earlier.
* Cease police checks on homes of vacationing residents.
* Reduce landscaping maintenance from 52 times a year to 48.
* Eliminate travel to sister cities.
* Eliminate the city's contract with a public-relations firm.
* Reduce funding for City Council aides from $18,000 a year for each council member to $10,000.
* Reduce the number of crossing guards.
The proposed budget must be approved by the City Council in June and would take effect July 1.
Some of the proposed reductions have already caused controversy in the city. Groups have formed to oppose cutting back the senior and disabled bus service and the closing of Adventure Playground, but Brady said such cutbacks are necessary to maintain more vital services.
"If it's a choice of closing Adventure Playground or laying off a police officer, for instance. . . , I know what I'm going to do," Brady said.
This year's budget has been the city's most difficult to prepare because revenue is rising slowly, he said. Even after asking each department head to submit spending plans with a maximum increase of 4%, Brady said he still had to trim $15 million from the budget.
No more significant cuts can be made in the current proposal without eliminating entire programs or laying off workers, he said. The hiring freeze instituted last September will help avoid layoffs, but some part-time and temporary employees eventually might lose their jobs, Brady said.
To help avoid cutting more programs, Brady's budget will drain $4.2 million from the city's reserve fund, reducing it from the normal 5% of the operations budget to 2%. Although some consider spending money from the "Reserve for Economic Uncertainties" fund unwise, "this is probably as economically uncertain the city has ever been in its history," Brady said.