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ORANGE : Fire, Library Services Among Budget Cuts

May 27, 1993|HELAINE OLEN

City officials took preliminary action Tuesday to slash more than $2 million from the city's fiscal year 1993-94 budget when they voted unanimously to make cuts in several departments, including fire and library services.

But the vote was not the final word on the matter. The cuts will have to be approved again in June when the City Council gives final approval to the estimated $42.8-million 1993-94 budget.

The council has already taken a number of steps toward closing its $11.2-million projected budget gap, including voting in April to lay off 50 employees to save $2.1 million and increasing the city's transient occupancy tax to raise $400,000.

The council still needs to come up with about $6 million in additional cuts by June 15, the day set for a public hearing on the budget plan.

Under the reductions approved Tuesday, the Fire Department budget was trimmed by $743,000, eliminating equipment used to combat brush fires and one free-standing paramedic unit. In addition, three engineer and five firefighter positions will be eliminated through attrition.

The item that caused the biggest public outcry, however was $493,000 in library cuts, which will result in shutting the Santiago Hills branch and severely curtailing the hours at the Taft and El Modena libraries.

In addition, the library's book budget will be cut $75,000, and the library director's position, vacant for more than a year, will continue to be a victim of the city hiring freeze.

"As a representative of the city, the library is as much a front-line office as police and fire," said resident Nora Jacob, speaking in opposition to the library cuts.

But Councilwoman Joanne Coontz, who shepherded the budget document through the council Tuesday, grew testy at times as residents sought explanations for some of the cuts.

"We're trying to save more than $2 million, and everyone has to participate," Coontz said. "We hope the budget situation is temporary, but this is the way it is now."

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