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Simi's $32.6-Million Budget Trimmed to Avoid Shortfall

Finances: No personnel or program cuts are planned for the 1996-97 fiscal year. The public has a chance to ask questions about the spending plan this afternoon.


SIMI VALLEY — With cuts too shallow to draw blood, Simi Valley fiscal planners have trimmed their proposed $32.6-million spending plan for 1996-97 to absorb a $327,300 revenue shortfall without laying off workers or scaling back services.

This afternoon, a 4:30 p.m. budget hearing at City Hall will give residents a chance to ask Finance Director Ken Schecter questions about how the city wants to spend that $32.6 million.

"There are no personnel cuts or program cuts," Schecter said. "It's basically containing everything that we're doing right now, and there are no additional personnel."

He said the meeting will address departmental wants, as well as needs.

"One of the documents that goes along with [the budget] is our policy book, a kind of wish list of things we need over and above this basic budget," Schecter said.

This year's wish list leans toward electronics and hardware.

City departments want a remote-control camera for scoping out sewer pipes, new computers for each of the five City Council members and a $50,000 citywide software upgrade.

Yet while gee-whiz items like a mobile radar speed display trailer and a scanner for identifying stolen cellular phones top the Police Department's wish list, the department also wants money for the human side.

Police commanders asked for $4,100 worth of counseling to help overstressed officers avoid missing work. And they requested $20,300 to make sure that there are lead dispatchers overseeing the dispatch center 24 hours a day.

On the other hand, police and other departments were asked to suggest cuts amounting to 10% of their total budgets in case the city needs to trim expenses later.

The police offered to surrender positions ranging from traffic cops and detectives to DARE and Special Enforcement Section officers.

The city attorney's office is prepared to lose paralegals and a staff attorney. The general services department could do without $12,200 worth of armored car pickups of city cash receipts. And the Waterworks District is willing to forgo a plan to give a developer $500,000 to help build a bigger-than-required tank to store water for a new housing tract.

"Whenever we have a shortfall, the council can make that up through cuts, as we mentioned," Schecter said. "But there's also the possibility of funding it from the general fund balance," which is projected to be $22.4 million next year.

But for all this figuring and projecting, a big chunk of the spending plan is still missing, Schecter added: "Any salary changes that are under negotiation right now will have to be factored in."

The union representing secretaries, technicians, maintenance workers and others--some 260 of Simi Valley's 550 workers--is negotiating with the city for a new contract.

The present two-year contract expires June 30, Assistant City Manager Laura Herron said, but she declined to describe the negotiations or specific issues.

Raises still have not been locked down for management employees, she said.

Every 1% of a pay raise will cost the city $61,300 a year for unionized employees and $98,600 for management employees across the board, Schecter estimates.

Taxpayers can scrutinize the budget and ask questions at public meetings today and June 6 in the Community Room at City Hall, 2929 Tapo Canyon Road.

The City Council is set to publicly discuss the budget for the first time at its June 10 meeting at 6:30 p.m. A full-fledged budget meeting is set from 6 to 10 p.m. June 12, and the council will discuss the spending plan once more June 17 before the target adoption date of June 24.

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