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Carson may choose layoffs to remedy projected shortfall

Dozens of lower-level positions threatened

Merdies Hayes | 6/20/2013, midnight

At least three dozen Carson city workers stayed late Tuesday at the City Council meeting to find out if their jobs will be secure. The Council reviewed the early budget forecast, which shows a likelihood that dozens of lower-level positions will be eliminated to shore up a projected budget shortfall of $1.7 million.

Carson’s projected revenues for fiscal year 2013-14 are expected to total just over $67 million, while expenditures may reach a little more than $68 million.

The elimination last year of the redevelopment agency has had a continuing impact on city services and proposed development. Among the sticking points in finalizing the new budget are the steady increase in retirement rates for city employees, the increase in the services contract with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and the impact of the loss of redevelopment funds.

Carson is trying to hold the fiscal line with limited hiring and other cost-cutting measures designed to help reinstate services cut during the economic downturn. The 2012-13 fiscal year ends on June 30, with the city finding itself better off than last year at this time (a projected $5 million shortfall then), when service cuts and fee increases were instituted to remain solvent. The city, which received several million dollars in unanticipated, one-time revenue, is trying o protect its surplus.

Two ways that City Manager David Biggs suggested could close the gap are, initially, discontinuing five vacant full-time positions, along with eliminating two filled full-time jobs via attrition or transfer. Second, Biggs presented a modification of public works and support staff. “We have room to eliminate some positions and leave others vacant in order to remain fiscally sound without any new fee hikes or service cuts,” Biggs said during his presentation.

There is the possibility of park closures on Sundays, as well as some “rank and file” personnel being affected by the new budget, Biggs continued. Middle, upper-middle and executive positions within city hall will reportedly go untouched; city employees have had no wage and benefit adjustments for two years. A series of budget meetings will be ongoing through the end of June.

A contingent of middle and high school students, who have abstained from underage drinking, were invited by Councilman Elito Santarina to tell adults about the persistent problem of “social hosting” parties where alcohol is distributed freely to youth by parents, guardians and other adults. “The problem of underage drinking can ruin lives, jeopardize a prosperous future, and even take the lives of our children—our most precious commodity,” Santarina said. The students told the Council it is quite easy to get alcohol at a house party or other social gathering; some of the kids gave personal testimony about loved ones who began drinking at a young age and ended up addicted to hard drugs, being arrested for drunk driving and even involvement in car accidents.

In Carson, an adult or guardian can be fined $250 for providing liquor to a child.

“Alcohol is far too accessible to kids 13 and 14 years old,” said John Vienes, director of Los Angeles County Substance Abuse Control. He said “social host” laws can be an effective way to reduce binge drinking and DUI arrests. “We are very proud of these young people who resist peer pressure to drink,” Vienes said. “Alcohol remains the No. 1 entry drug among teenagers, and getting kids informed early about the consequences of alcoholism is vital for a bright future.”

Capt. Eddie Rivera of the Carson Sheriff’s substation said the department will conduct another gun buy-back on July 20 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 21356 Avalon Blvd. Also, the department will host its annual Community Night Out on Aug. 8 beginning at 6 p.m. This event is part of the National Night Out where residents gather across the nation to march and speak on reducing crime and violence in their neighborhoods.