By Jim Tortolano
After slashing another $174,000 in spending, the Westminster City Council approved the city budget Wednesday night on a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Tyler Diep casting the dissenting vote.
Approval of the budget had twice been delayed when council members asked for more detail on possible cuts to the spending plan. “Thank you for this report,” said Councilwoman Margie Rice, referring to a document on “Budget Cost Saving Information.” She added “I would have voted for this budget earlier if I’d had this information.”
The final budget includes reductions that incorporate items large (operations and maintenance: $108,800) and small (city donation to the Mayor’s Ball: $3,000). The elimination of four vehicles from the city’s fleet will save an additional $66,000.
Even with the cost cuts, the budget plan continues to leave the city in red ink. The final document has the city taking about $8.6 million from reserves to be balanced. It’s believed that if the deficit continues, municipal coffers could be empty as soon as 2019.
The city’s financial problems prompted the council earlier this summer to place an measure on the Nov. 8 ballot to institute a 1 percent sales tax to help fund services, including police and fire.
As a peek into other possible sources of revenue, the budget-saving paper from City Manager Eddie Manfto mentioned the possible sale, or increase in lease rates, at two prominent buildings owned by Westminster.
The Rose Center Theater, a 30,000-square foot performing arts center and banquet facility in the Civic Center, has a market value of between $7.1 and $8.3 million. The Miriam Warne Building , a single-story office building at Beach Boulevard and Hazard Avenue, has a value estimated at $1.1 to $1.3 million.