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City Budget Prognosis Improves : Finances: The state may take less local property tax money than expected. But $1.1 million in staff cuts is still possible.

June 24, 1993|G. JEANETTE AVENT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

BEVERLY HILLS — The good news is that the city's 1993-94 budget sacrifices may not be as bad as expected. The bad news is the city may still have to make $1.1 million in staff cuts to balance the budget, city officials say.

City Manager Mark Scott told the Beverly Hills City Council Tuesday that the prognosis for the city's 1993-94 budget looks better than had been expected. But he said he wanted to wait a few days more before publicly presenting the city's plan for a balanced budget until he can get more information from Sacramento about how much the cities can expect from the state as their share of property taxes.

Scott told the council that the latest information coming out of state budget negotiations has been positive.

"It looks like there will be a reduced amount of money-taking from the cities," Scott said. "But they won't be able to give us our specific allocation for a day or two."

Noel Marquis, the city's deputy director of finance, said Wednesday that city staff plans to present the council with a balanced budget to approve during its meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday. The budget calls for $1.1 million in staff cuts and the balance of the $3.4-million deficit to be made up through fee increases.

Marquis said no specific positions have been targeted and if the city gets a reprieve from Sacramento, the city may be able to offer early retirement to some employees instead of staff cuts. He said the city recently raised some fees to bring them more in line with the actual cost of providing such services as after-school day care. The city may also look at charging a fee to lease single-family homes and require a license for home-based businesses.

A draft of next year's budget released June 1 shows anticipated revenues of $72.3 million and proposed expenditures of $75.7 million, about the same as last year. The $3.4-million deficit, which must be reconciled before July 1, was based on a dramatic decline in what the city expected to receive from the state in its share of property taxes.

Scott told the council last week that deep staff and organizational cutbacks would be needed if the state held to its intentions. The city had faced a deficit as high as $5.6 million, but the council cut the shortfall to $3.4 million by eliminating a city subsidy of residential trash collection and passing on the cost to homeowners.

But as negotiations over the state's budget continued, the council tentatively agreed to a $61,000 increase for the Beverly Hills Visitors & Convention Bureau and smaller increases for two other groups during its annual review of community assistance funding on Tuesday.

During its study session, the council approved $6.4 million, about the same as last year, for funding to various community groups for 1993-94, including $5.4 million to the city's schools. The council plans to consider three other requests before approving a final budget on Tuesday.

Seventeen groups requested funding for next year, and most were given the same amount as last year. The council agreed to increase funding for the visitors bureau from $539,000 to $600,000. The Westside Food Bank, which distributes food to 33 agencies helping the poor and homeless, was awarded $30,000, up from $25,000 last year. The Beverly Hills Ministerial Assn., which provides onetime assistance to families and individuals, received a small increase from $3,000 to $3,500.

Councilman Allan L. Alexander said he was concerned about the $61,000 increase to the visitor's bureau. But Mayor Maxwell Salter said that during tough economic times, the city needs to spend more money, not less, to bring visitors to the community. The bureau is planning a series of events to promote the city as a visitor's destination, including Will Rogers Days, which will commemorate the city's honorary mayor of 1926.

The council agreed to renew matching funds for the Chamber of Commerce's Economic Development Council and Retail Council. The city allocates $50,000 to each group to promote the city as a place to locate businesses and as a shopping destination.

Continued funding to promote the city is important, said Councilwoman Vicki Reynolds, because 70% of the city's revenues come from sales tax, hotel occupancy taxes, business license taxes and other business fees.

Still to be decided is the annual allocation to the chamber for holiday street decorations, and requests from two new groups that had not previously received city assistance. The Women's Clinic, a 20-year-old agency that opened its office in Beverly Hills in 1981, asked for $10,000 to help provide medical services and family planning for women. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which provides contract services to Beverly Hills and nine other area cities, asked for $11,000.

The council had previously allocated $5.4 million, the same as last year, to the city's schools.

Other groups receiving the same funding, or city-donated services such as printing, were: the Maple Center, the Beverly Hills Family YMCA, Beverly Hills Symphony, Beverly Hills Theater Guild, Beverly Hills Education Foundation, Los Angeles Free Clinic and Beverly Hills Meals on Wheels. Beverly Hills Television, the city's community access channel, requested and received $90,000, which is $10,000 less than last year.

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