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Budget Has Reserve, 10 Fewer Jobs

June 09, 1991|MICHELE FUETSCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The City Council has unanimously approved a budget that contains a $1-million reserve for the first time in at least three years, but the council eliminated 10 positions, including the public works director and three of his engineers.

Director Angel Espiritu is among the employees slated to lose their jobs next month under the city's $84.7-million spending plan for the 1991-92 fiscal year. The council approved the budget, which is $1.2 million higher than this year's, at a meeting Wednesday night.

City Manager Howard Caldwell said, however, that the city is in a much healthier position than it has been in recent years, when officials ordered huge layoffs to balance the budgets. At times, the city's reserves totaled only about $200,000, he added.

He said the 10 positions are being eliminated to achieve what he called organizational efficiency. Under the new spending plan, for example, engineering work will be contracted out to a private firm, saving the city as much as $283,000 a year, he said.

"We did not have enough of the specialization that we needed in the (engineering division), so why not contract out the work," Caldwell said, pointing out that the city has had to contract out some engineering work for years.

Two maintenance positions and a photo technician's job in the Police Department also will be eliminated, Caldwell said.

Because its narrow sales tax base did not expand as rapidly as city officials had hoped it would, Compton has been steadily reducing its work force in order to keep pace with rising costs. Today, there are about 600 city employees, down from about 800 three years ago.

The council has ordered a study to determine if it can save money by dismantling the city firefighting force and contract with Los Angeles County for fire protection.

Despite the job losses this year, Councilman Maxcy D. Filer credited Caldwell with bringing "fiscal responsibility and accountability to city government."

The reserve, as welcome as it is to city officials, is bound to be reduced as the year goes on, however. Caldwell and the council members want to give pay raises to those city employees who have not had an increase in three years, Caldwell said.

The firefighters and police officers have been getting raises under contractual agreements with the city. Other city employees, such as clerks and maintenance workers, are currently negotiating their contract.

Caldwell also warned in his budget message to the council that as a result of the state's projected deficit, cities and counties may be asked to pick up additional costs they have not had before.

Community correspondent Leta Lynde contributed to this story.

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