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Laguna council gives initial approval to proposed budget

City officials' approval includes some tweaks of draft 2012-13 budget, which includes $65.8 million for operations and capital projects.

May 17, 2012|By Barbara Diamond

City officials squeezed the proposed 2012-13 budget to help preserve Laguna's past and protect its future.

The City Council gave preliminary approval at the workshop on Tuesday to a budget drafted by the city manager that totals $65.8 million for operations and capital projects, with $47 million of it in the General Fund, over which the council has discretion. The approval included some tweaking by the council at the hearing, attended by seven members of the public.

"I found the public attendance at the workshop disappointing," said Councilman Kelly Boyd. "It is the time for them to express their opinions, but when you have the hearing at 3 p.m., it is hard for people to get there."

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The council made it worth the while of two members of the public who did find the time to attend.

The South County Cross-Cultural Council's David Peck was on hand to hear the council approve a request for $30,000 toward the Day Laborer Hiring Area, which his nonprofit runs, off Laguna Canyon Road. The Cross-Cultural Council will a still be included in the applications for community service grants to be vetted by Boyd and Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson.

The council also approved a request by Heritage Committee Chairman Jon Madison for up to $75,000 to hire a consultant to help weed out some buildings that no longer qualify to be in the city's 450 historical structure inventory.

"We are floundering," said Tamara Campbell, a committee member and former city planner. "Our biggest problem is working with an outdated inventory."

Madison joked that the money could come out of the Parking Fund, a statement that riled Pearson.

"The fund had more than $10 million in it when I took office 10 years ago," Pearson said. "It was supposed to be used to build more desperately needed parking in Laguna. Now it has $4.5 million, and very little has been spent on parking."

For the past several years, transfers from the fund have been used to subsidize the city's transit system. The transfer proposed in the 2012-13 draft budget is $710,200 and is expected to be even higher in future years if alternatives for reducing the drain on the parking fund, currently being studied by the council, don't pan out.

Additions to the draft budget included funds to help protect the city in future emergencies, including the $800,000 City Manager John Pietig recommended be set aside toward Laguna's share of a countywide emergency communications system.

The council also added $5,000 to fund training for community emergency response teams.

In an overview presented at the hearing, Pietig said the 2012-13 budget maintains current levels of service, assumes moderate revenue growth and no impacts from the state budget, addresses council priorities and infrastructure improvements.

The budget does not include cost-of-living raises for city employees or any dip into financial reserves, he said.

"The staff did an excellent job of analyzing our current situation and was very conservative in their projections for the future," Pearson said.

The draft budget can be viewed at the city's website, http://www.lagunabeachcity.net.

The revised budget will be returned to the council at the June 19 meeting for final approval.

coastlinepilot@latimes.com

Twitter: @coastlinepilot

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