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Orange County Register (California)

City officials plan to hire 10 police officers, repair playground equipment at parks and upgrade the utility system as part of a $1.6 billion budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, reflecting a 3.7 percent spending increase over the past year.

The annual spending plan, unanimously approved this month by the City Council, marks the second consecutive year that city officials are attempting to restore services that were lost during the recession.

"This is a far cry from when I started on this council four years ago, when we had to dip into the city reserves to pay for services," Councilwoman Gail Eastman said.

Anaheim's general fund will increase to $259.9 million, paying for day-to-day expenses for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The largest chunk - $174.8 million - will go toward the police and fire departments. Anaheim's public works, planning, community services and City Hall costs are included in the general fund.

The city also is projected to have $24.1 million socked away in its reserve account.

The city is projected to generate nearly $263.4 million in revenue, a 5 percent increase from the current year. The increase comes from a 5 percent jump in anticipated hotel room taxes, along with a 9 percent increase in sales tax and a 4 percent increase in property tax, all of which were attributed to the improving economy.

"We're expecting some significant revenue growth over the next year that will allow us to add services back, and we're very pleased that we've been able to recover a lot better than a lot of other cities have," said Deborah Moreno, Anaheim's finance director.

The City Council pledged this month to bring the Police Department back to what it considered to be full staffing of more than 400 officers by mid-2018, a level not seen since the start of the recession in 2008.

Police Chief Raul Quezada has said that the officers likely will be deployed to youth services, traffic patrol and the gang unit.

"This council has made a decision that public safety is most important," Mayor Tom Tait said. "If we aren't safe, then people won't use our parks or streets."

The city's overall budget also sets aside $316 million for capital improvements.

The largest portion - $82.8 million - is earmarked for part of the seventh expansion of the Anaheim Convention Center. While a pending lawsuit swayed Citigroup from purchasing bonds to pay for construction, city officials said they hope that the project still will be funded by bonds sold at a later date.

An additional $123.8 million was set aside for street and traffic-signal improvements, along with the completion of the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center, set to open by the end of the year near Angel Stadium. About $84.8 million will be spent on upgrading the city's utility and sewer systems, while $18 million was set aside for park upgrades and recreation programs.

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June 27, 2014


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