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Optimistic City Officials Boosting Budget, Hiring

April 23, 1998|LESLEY WRIGHT

City officials are confident enough about the economy to hire several new employees and to boost the budget by as much as $53.6 million, an increase of about 3% over last year.

Although some sources of revenue are running a bit dry, the all-important sales tax revenue is projected to increase 4.9% for fiscal 1998-99, Finance Director Helen Bell said.

City Council members reviewed the data this week during a budget workshop; a public hearing and a vote on the budget are set for May 26.

The openings this year of several major retailers, including a Wal-Mart at the Mall of Orange, will boost sales tax revenue well into the future, officials said.

CityMills, a mega-mall scheduled to open on the City Drive in November, is expected to draw 10 million tourists and shoppers per year, City Manager David L. Rudat said. The city's portion of that income will begin in fiscal 1999-2000.

In contrast to past years, the city has created new positions, including an assistant to the city manager, a planning aide and three police officers, whose salaries will largely be funded with grants.

The city also will hire a full-time marketing specialist to promote the city. "The goal of this change is to enhance the city's image to the business community, consumers and the general public," stated a memo attached to the budget.

Altogether, the city will have 620 full-time employees in the coming year.

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