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Thousand Oaks Rounds Out Its Budget Wish List

October 07, 1995|LISA M. BOWMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

THOUSAND OAKS — Street sweeping, Fourth of July fireworks and some school crossing guards could be a thing of the past under budget cuts proposed Friday by city department heads.

But the proposals also include increasing hours for Thousand Oaks' main library, beefing up police patrols and putting many of the city's departments online.

The proposals came two months after Thousand Oaks' new budget task force compiled its own wish list for spending and slashing in 1995-96. Suggestions by the community group included abandoning a sister city relationship with Spitak, Armenia, opening up the Los Robles driving range at night to bring in more money, and selling off the city water company, which alone could bring in an estimated $15 million to $26 million.

On Friday, it was the department heads' turn to add to the list.

The tentative $57-million spending plan--a precursor to the formal budget scheduled to go before the council in November--is $1.2 million less than the city's 1994-95 budget. As proposed by the department heads, it also includes a $1.5-million deficit that could increase to $5.9 million if the City Council approves all of the proposed new programs.

But City Manager Grant Brimhall said the city could make up the anticipated loss through new revenue sources and the cuts proposed by each department.

Library officials proposed spending $245,000 to open the Thousand Oaks Library on Fridays and $2,200 to install a system to charge overdue fees by Visa or MasterCard. They also suggested reducing hours at the Newbury Park branch by 20 each week to recoup $231,000.

The Sheriff's Department in Thousand Oaks suggested cutting the DARE anti-drug program, the Volunteer in Policing program, and databases of gang members and sex offenders to save more than $500,000. In exchange, the department requested 2 1/2 extra law enforcement positions and a $177,000 mobile community police center.

Under proposals by the Public Works and Community Services departments, residents would receive a city-generated quarterly newsletter and an extra channel on the city's public-access cable channel, TOTV, but they would lose all street-sweeping services, some tree-trimming services and 13 crossing guards.

Councilman Mike Markey proposed reduced spending for all crossing guards, not just those in low-traffic areas.

"If it weren't for the school district, we wouldn't have to pay for that," said Markey, who advocated turning responsibility for the guards over to the Conejo Valley Unified School District.

The council and city staff will whittle down the two sets of proposals into a formal budget during meetings this month. Council members will vote on a final spending plan after public hearings scheduled for Nov. 7 and 21. "It's the most open, participatory budget scenario that I've ever seen a government do," Brimhall said.

But the all-inclusive approach to budget planning is taking the city months longer than in previous years.

The city adopted a two-year spending plan for 1993-94 and 1994-95 in early November, 1993.

Still, city officials say the new method allows everyone, including the public, to participate in the decision-making process.

"I didn't want to throttle any input just yet," Brimhall said.

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