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Ventura County

Thousand Oaks May Face Cuts

Analysis shows how loss of $4 million in state funds could affect city services and programs.

February 20, 2003|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

Police patrols, library hours and monthly street sweeping could be scaled back if the state, to help balance its budget, decides to withhold $4 million in funds earmarked for Thousand Oaks, city officials said.

Concerned that the money could vanish next fiscal year, the City Council has requested an analysis of how a 10% cut in the city's general fund would affect services and programs. The panel was presented with the findings during a budget study session Tuesday night.

Among the more drastic cuts after July 1 would be elimination of one of six 24-hour police patrols and halting minor traffic accident investigations. Also, deputies would no longer respond to burglar alarm calls unless a crime was verified. Nearly 99% of such incidents are false alarms, officials say.

Sheriff's Cmdr. Keith Parks, who serves as the city's police chief, predicted he would lose three deputies, two senior deputies, a community service officer and end the popular DARE anti-drug program if forced to cut 10% from his $17.13-million budget. Plans to purchase six new vehicles and a motorcycle would be canceled and there would be reduced staffing throughout the department.

But it's very unlikely law enforcement would take such a hit in this pro-public safety city where Mayor Andy Fox is a Los Angeles Fire Department battalion chief and Councilman Dennis Gillette is a retired Ventura County assistant sheriff.

Councilman Ed Masry, who has questioned the wisdom of crafting a budget before state appropriations are determined, opposes any reductions in the Sheriff's Department's contract with the city. Masry said he would push to have the $1.7 million in potential cuts come from other areas of the city's $168.7-million budget for fiscal 2003-04.

City Manager MaryJane Lazz reassured the council that the proposed service reductions were only offered as a worst-case scenario if the city had to cut nearly $6 million from the $59.86-million general fund portion of next year's budget.

All capital improvement projects supported by the city's general fund would also be at risk for cutbacks. Those projects include an $11.47-million expansion to the main library, a $1-million expansion of the Goebel Senior Adult Center and $1 million to expand the gym at the adjacent teen center.

City department heads also suggested cuts they would make if forced to operate with a 10% budget reduction.

The Finance Department would eliminate overtime, reduce its hours, cut or freeze five or six of its 60 positions and reduce its travel and training budget by one-third to help reduce $1.24 million from its spending plan, officials said.

Also, a $1.14-million loss to the Public Works Department would result in across-the-board program reductions, including residential streets being swept only every other month, ending a city vanpool for employee ride-sharing and eliminating up to eight staff positions.

Councilwoman Claudia Bill-de la Pena asked Finance Director Candis Hong to review more than $900,000 set aside for travel, training and memberships for city employees and suggest ways to reduce costs.

The budget forecasts a leveling off of revenues from sales taxes and construction permits during the next two years, reduced returns on interest income and less federal money for law enforcement.

To compensate for lower revenue and to cover higher salary and benefit costs, Thousand Oaks proposes increasing many of its 230 user fees by about 10%. Some fees, such as the price of a swimming pool encroachment permit or to get a property line adjusted, would be raised as much as 15% to 20% to cover higher staffing costs. Other fee increases being considered are a 5% hike for commercial users to rent the two theaters at the Civic Arts Plaza and higher fees at city-owned Los Robles Golf Course. And property owners would see a $1 monthly increase in municipal water rates and 30 cents more on their bill for wastewater service.

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