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$306-Million Budget OKd; Most Services Maintained : Spending: Council members surprised by the 'almost painless' cutbacks. There is even enough left over for a $1.5-million fund to cover possible revenue losses.

July 01, 1993|EDMUND NEWTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PASADENA — After nine months of deliberations, the Pasadena City Council on Tuesday produced a $306-million 1993-94 budget that is both parsimonious and generous, erasing city jobs but bolstering the Police Department with new equipment.

The lengthy budget process, which began last September with worried conferences on likely scenarios for reductions in state revenues, ultimately produced new taxes, higher fees for service and $9.3 million in cuts.

Forty-one city jobs will be eliminated in the new spending plan, and the city's sprawling Public Access Television Department will be significantly pared back.

But the budget largely maintains current levels of city services, with late council action even preserving tree-pruning schedules and playground supervision hours.

In the area of public safety--police and fire services--there were increases totaling more than $1.3 million.

"Almost painless" was the way several relieved city officials described the new budget, which takes effect today, the first day of the new fiscal year.

So painlessly did the balanced budget come at the end, in fact, that city officials worried openly that critics would say they had been "crying wolf" when they warned in recent months that Draconian measures might have to be taken.

"We worked very hard to make sure that the citizens don't get stuck," said Finance Director Mary Bradley.

Among other things, the new budget:

* Takes $200,000 away from the city's four public access and public service television stations. City officials expect to achieve savings by consolidating the stations.

* Eliminates a part-time "contract compliance" administrator, one of several workers who ensure that city contractors abide by affirmative action requirements to hire and subcontract with minority group members.

* Suspends a tuition reimbursement program for city employees.

Budget cuts could force layoffs of 22 city workers out of a city work force of 1,850. But most of the 22 will be reassigned to other jobs, city officials said.

There is a pool of 92 unfilled--but funded--jobs to which the affected workers could be assigned, officials said.

"Those positions were held open very deliberately," Budget Director Barbara Harris said.

The general fund budget, which covers most agencies under the direct administration of City Hall, was pared down to $112 million, from more than $115 million last year.

The real losers, city officials conceded, may have been city employees, most of whom have not had cost-of-living raises since January, 1992, and who have been called upon to work more efficiently as their numbers have decreased.

The city's 530-member managerial staff recently voted to be represented as a collective bargaining unit.

In the end, budget officials came up with a combination of new fees for services, reduced costs and a better-than-expected deal from the state to cover anticipated revenue shortfalls.

The city had expected to lose $3.8 million in property taxes to the state, but the final state package--which reduces the amount of property taxes going to cities by $288 million--takes only $2.6 million.

The city also benefits from a one-time distribution by the state of $130 million in sales tax revenues to cities and counties, bringing in an extra $811,000.

Officials warned that there could still be changes in the state budget affecting Pasadena.

"But the cement appears to be drying," Mayor Rick Cole said.

The city will further bolster city finances by raising fees on everything from photocopying documents in the city clerk's office to the rental of playing fields by sports teams, bringing in an additional $1.5 million. The council also approved a 3.5% increase in business taxes and a new tax on cellular telephone users.

With the improved revenue picture, there was even money left over Tuesday for the council to establish a $1.5-million "stabilization account" to cover possible revenue losses for an economic downturn or from further action by the state Legislature.

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