The newest heroine of Hermosa Beach may very well be Viki Copeland, the city's longtime finance director. Copeland's department masterfully crafted a solution to the city's $2.4-million budget shortfall this week, saving Hermosa from tapping into its limited reserves while avoiding layoffs.
The 2010-2011 fiscal year budget adopted by the council Tuesday is $27 million. Under the innovative Plan "A" budget alternative, proposed by Copeland, the City Council was able to save $1.5 million by freezing 14 open positions — community resources director and risk manager, among them — and offering early retirement to several qualifying employees. All budget hearings and final City Council deliberations were open to the public.
The city manager is performing the duties of the open positions on a temporary basis, so residents should not notice any shortfall of services. Also, the proposal calls for eliminating all overtime for fire department personnel for a savings of $330,000.
Eliminating Hermosa's annual St. Patrick's Day parade, "Big Band" New Year's Eve celebration and holiday lighting resulted in a budget savings of $156,000. It is hoped that these events might instead be supported by the private sector.
Additional savings will be realized by re-bidding existing contracts, worth $56,000; eliminating city financial support of the Summer Sunset concert series and privatizing this event, saving $40,000; and expenditure reductions in overtime, contract services, office supplies, and conferences and training, worth $53,000.
Additional suggested revenue enhancements to further bolster the city's sagging finances include: increasing the parking rates in the downtown parking structure and Lot A by 25 percent to $1.25 per hour; hiring two additional parking officers and enforcing downtown meters until midnight; and converting Lot A and the parking structure from attendants to meters.
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Geoff Hirsch, a Hermosa Beach resident for more than 20 years, has served as a parks and recreation commissioner and director of the Hermosa Beach Historical Society. He is a member of the PCH-Aviation Improvement Committee, recently chartered by the City Council.