Calif. city’s $2.1B budget includes hiring more first responders

Anaheim leaders passed a budget that supports hiring more firefighters, police officers due to an increasing call volume

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Paul Bersebach

By Michael Slaten
The Orange County Register

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Anaheim will add more cops and firefighters to its streets in the coming year with the $2.1 billion budget recently approved for this new fiscal year – a continued signal the city is overcoming its pandemic-induced financial struggles.

The budget, which kicked in on July 1, will add nine new firefighters and hire a dozen police officers. There will also be six additional police officers dedicated to Anaheim schools. City fees for services such as trash pickup and public golf courses will rise slightly.

“Our call volume is stepping up every year dramatically,” Fire Chief Pat Russell said at a June 13 budget meeting with the City Council. Burns told the council the Fire Department is receiving 18,000 more calls a year than it did in 2008, but still at similar staffing levels.

The city also agreed to continue its services with Be Well OC, which provides mental health resources, at a cost of $1.3 million a year. Anaheim will also spend an additional $3.1 million in the new budget to support more homeless outreach and an extra $4.5 million for landscaping and replacing sidewalks.

The newly adopted budget is 6% larger than the current one. Anaheim’s general fund, which pays for day-to-day operations such as libraries, parks and public safety, surpassed $440 million. Central Library and Haskett Branch Library will now be open seven days a week, with others getting expanded hours, too.

The city is expected to take in record revenues from the taxes it collects. With that, officials expect to pay back by 2028 a bond that was taken out to support the budget during the pandemic, sooner than originally planned, thanks to more tourists returning to hotels. Finance Director Debbie Moreno warned that an economic slowdown could extend that date.

Most city services are seeing rate hikes in line with the consumer price index, officials said. A single-family home will now pay $27.78 a month to have its garbage picked up.

The City Council decided at the last minute to amend the budget presented to them to include hiring three more firefighters than the originally planned six. They also chose to fund improvements at Paul Revere Park at a cost of $100,000. The additional firefighters came after Councilmember Natalie Rubalcava asked city staff at the June 13 council meeting if there was any room in the budget that could go toward public safety.

A memo presented to the council recommended that the council wait to fund new positions until after the police and fire departments had time to complete staffing reviews. The council moved some one-time money to fund the firefighter positions.

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