COSTA MESA — Yesterday was the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere due to the summer solstice. In a 4-1 vote at 1 am this morning, Wendy Leece voting no, the Costa Mesa City Council approved a balanced budget for the 2011-12 Fiscal Year. In spite of the dire predictions of Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and his colleagues on the Council, Mayor Gary Monahan, Eric Bever, and appointed member Stephen Mensinger that the city was facing financial collapse this fall and a $15 million budget shortfall, the City of Costa Mesa is on sound financial ground with a balanced budget for the coming year.
At a budget meeting last week, CEO Tom Hatch presented a $114.9 million balanced budget to the Council. Seemingly out of the blue, Righeimer demanded more than $2 million in additional changes to the budget. Last night Hatch presented the Council with options to meet Righeimer’s demands. Among the reductions that Hatch made to his budget was to reduce allocations for Legal Services to by $200,000. This is strange, given the current rate of legal expenditures for the current year that exceed $1.2 million.
What the changes result in is a contingency budget of $970,000 and $1.5 million in budgeted equipment replacement allocations that, according to an employee funded audit released yesterday, are not needed.
As we reported yesterday, the City of Costa Mesa is not in dire financial crisis. On the contrary, the city has more than $26 million in funding options to meet their budget needs.
So now that, by their own standards, the Council majority has approved an austerity budget that reduces police coverage to risky levels according to the departed Interim Chief it seems appropriate that the Council rescind their unwarranted layoff notices issued to 214 employees in March.
When Righeimer declared the need for the layoffs, he cited impending budget doom as the reason for issuing notices before any analysis of the feasibility of such actions. That emergency does not exist now, and it never did.