Laguna Hills City Council discusses budget – Orange County Register

Rising Orange County Sheriff’s Department costs and the Five Lagunas redevelopment project were the main topics Tuesday, May 9, as the Laguna Hills City Council began discussing its biennial budget.

As costs for OCSD services rise countywide, affecting nearby cities such as Laguna Woods and Aliso Viejo, Laguna Hills is factoring the effect it will have on its budget. The city spent $7.9 million in OCSD costs this year, with $7.6 million last year and $6.9 million in 2014-15. This year OCSD costs accounted for 40 percent of the city’s general fund.

“We need to continue to find a way to constrain the growing cost of Sheriff services,” City Manager Bruce Channing said.

As the anticipated Five Lagunas project – the redevelopment of the Laguna Hills Mall – comes closer to opening next year, the city expects to see more general fund revenue but also anticipates other costs to increase.

“Quite frankly when the Five Lagunas project is done, our public safety costs are going to increase,” Assistant City Manager Donald White said. “Our patrol deputies are really at their minimum.”

Factoring in the OCSD costs, the proposed estimated budget for 2017-18 projects $30 million in revenues and $24.3 million in expenditures; and 2018-19 is projected at $29.9 million in revenues and $24.7 in expenditures.

This year’s budget projected expenditures at $19.2 million, with revenues anticipated to come under budget by roughly $310,335 as a result of lower sales tax revenues, largely attributable to the Five Lagunas redevelopment project, according to a city budget report. The proposed budget also includes an 8-year plan that projects fund balance ratios for the general funds.

“In truth, if you factored inflationary growth we’re still behind the curve as where we were some 7 or 8 years ago,” Channing said.

Weed, rubbish and refuse abatement

A resolution was unanimously approved to enforce the weed, rubbish and refuse abatement – an authorization for public services to remove weed, rubbish, refuse and/or dirt – for nearly 500 properties in Laguna Hills.

After the resolution was initially approved to send legal notices to the property owners on April 12, which were identified on the 2017 weed abatement list, the owners had a deadline for May 31 to abate and remove the weeds, rubbish and refuse or dirt on their property at their sole cost and expense, Mayor Pro Tempore Melody Carruth said.

“The notice provided that if the public nuisance is not abated and removed by the owners of the parcels of land, such nuisances will be abated and removed by the city,” Carruth said. “In which case the cost would be assessed on the parcels of land for which those weeds for removed.”

Many property owners have already completed the removals, she said. There is $44,000 budgeted for properties to be assessed and for the public nuisances to be removed by the city.

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