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Costa Mesa city workers face potential layoffs

March 2, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Costa Mesa is facing a multimillion-dollar budget deficit, and that means lots of layoffs and outsourcing several city services. The financial crisis has left many residents wondering what jobs or services will be cut next.

From those responsible for graffiti cleanup in Costa Mesa to workers in information technology, park maintenance and even firefighting services, more than 100 employees in 18 city departments could soon receive layoff notices.

"Very depressing, very depressing. The employees don't know which way to go right now," said Helen Nenadal, a building maintenance technician.

The Costa Mesa City Council voted Tuesday night to lay off workers as it considers outsourcing jobs to save money. The budget is just over $90 million, down from $130 million.

"With over 80 percent of our budget, which is one of the highest in the state in salaries and benefits, we've got to find a way to get that more down to more of an average to where we can provide services and keep going," said Costa Mesa Mayor Gary Monahan.

The city council recently canceled police involvement in a helicopter program to save about $1 million a year.

The mayor says the city has been cutting its budget over the past few years, laying off more than 100 employees already and still facing a $1.4-million budget shortfall this year.

Workers are questioning the city's latest action. They heard about the plans on Friday.

"We don't think they have the legal right to do it and that's something we'll be challenging in the courts," said Nick Berardino, general manager of the Orange County Employees Association.

Monahan says the city must give workers at least six months notice if their job is being contracted out or if a service is being eliminated. It can be rescinded at any time as the city analyzes whether outsourcing can save money.

"It is uncertainty. We are, including myself, the employees are on a six-month rollercoaster," said Helen Nenadal, the maintenance technician.

Some union members upset the city has not accepted any of their cost-cutting suggestions. The mayor insists he's willing to listen to any ideas.

"If it's just status quo, we're going to run out of money and we're going to be in a lot bigger trouble than we are now," said Monahan.