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Outsourced: City Council Votes To Privatize Costa Mesa Jobs

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COSTA MESA (CBS) — City Council members took the politically-unpopular step of approving a plan to outsource perhaps dozens of key city services in Costa Mesa in the hopes of trimming a mounting tide of red ink.

Councilwoman Wendy Leece cast the only dissenting ballot in a 4-1 vote before midnight Tuesday that could mean graffiti removal, park and street maintenance, jail operations, 911 police dispatch calls, building inspection and the city’s print shop could be privatized, Councilman Jim Righeimer said.

However, not every service on their list will be outsourced, Mayor Gary Monahan and Righeimer said. City officials are required to give their employees at least six months notice of any attempt to farm out jobs, but the council members have the option of later changing their minds.

The city is facing a $1.4 million deficit for this fiscal year and a projected $15 million deficit for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, said City Manager Tom Hatch.

A big part of the problem is the city’s ballooning pension fund costs, Righeimer said.

“Ten years ago the pension fund cost us $5 million a year. This year it will cost $15 million and next year $18 million,” Righeimer said. “In the next five years it will cost $25 million to $26 million, and our budget is like
$91 million.”

Costa Mesa has been cutting its budget for the past few years, Monahan said.

“It’s been very difficult,” Monahan said. “We’ve cut so many services to the residents, so many programs, and we’re still not there. We went from a $130 million budget to $94 million and that’s an incredible hit. Over 80
percent of our expenses are salaries and benefits and we have to find a way to get that number down.”

The City Council on Tuesday received a proposal from the Orange County Fire Authority to take over the city’s firefighting services.

The union representing the city’s firefighters paid for the study, which indicates the city could save $2 million to $4 million, Righeimer said.

A decision on the proposal is not expected for months, Righeimer said.

Having the Orange County Fire Authority provide Costa Mesa’s firefighting services could mean closing one or two fire stations, Righeimer said.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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