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NEWPORT BEACH : City Delays Lifeguard Funds Vote

October 31, 1994|HOLLY J. WAGNER

Faced with a county plan to pull the plug on subsidies for lifeguard services, the City Council has postponed a vote on accepting reduced funding in the hope of getting the county to change its policy.

Orange County began paying the subsidies to Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Seal Beach and San Clemente years ago, when there were no county-operated beaches. At the time, the cities were smaller and had less revenue.

Since 1982, the total county contribution to all beach operations in the cities has been $248,248, with $110,420 going to Newport Beach under a formula that divides the money according to how much each city spends on lifeguard services.

In June, the county notified the five cities that it planned to phase out the subsidy because of state budget cuts. The phase-out was to end county funding by the 1997-98 fiscal year.

City Manager Kevin Murphy warned in a report to the council that the county could abruptly cut off funding for cities that refuse a 25% per year reduction over four years.

Although Laguna Beach and Seal Beach have voted to approve the phase-out, Murphy asked the council to postpone a vote until after the November election.

City officials are optimistic that Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) will be elected to the Board of Supervisors and may be able to secure continued funding.

Councilman Phil Sansone opposed the cut outright.

"This bothers me, in that (lifeguard services) are costing the city $2 million a year. What bothers me more is that there is no justification other than that the state has taken away money from the county," he said. "I kind of think that they are trying to lay onto the city something they shouldn't."

Huntington Beach officials apparently have similar feelings and postponed their vote on the matter earlier this month to explore legal alternatives to accepting the cut.

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