12:14 AM PST on Sunday, January 9, 2011

By LAURIE LUCAS
The Press-Enterprise

Taking the first steps to chip away at a budget shortfall, Moreno Valley officials have imposed a hiring freeze, cut the number of city-issued credit cards and merged two departments.

“We’re just getting warmed up,” said Richard Teichert, the city’s financial and administrative services director. He said this is the launch of a three-year plan to plug the hole between $83 million in expenses and $68 million in revenues.

Vacant city positions will stay unfilled until fiscal conditions improve enough to warrant limited hiring. Exceptions will be the city manager, an accountant and a budget officer, Teichert said.

Also, effective this week, the city will eliminate as many as 60 of the 205 credit cards that are spread among 14 departments with an annual tab of about $4 million. Cards to be revoked are those used 10 times or less during the year. This includes the Police Department, whose 30 credit cards will be reduced by half, he said.

Reviewing and streamlining credit card use will allow closer scrutiny and tighter control from the finance department. Mandatory training in February of all credit-card holders will discourage unnecessary purchases, he said.

Teichert said the impetus for reform came from five residents, who call themselves the Honest Government Committee. They brought the city’s credit card expenses to his attention last fall.

“It gave me the opportunity to look closely at the program and make adjustments,” he said.

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