10:00 PM PDT on Wednesday, June 22, 2011

By DARRELL R. SANTSCHI
The Press-Enterprise

The Highland City Council has approved a spending plan that is balanced without layoffs or cuts in service and includes $155 million in planned public improvements over the next five years.

The budget calls for the city to spend $15.3 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1 on its general fund, which pays for most day-to-day expenses. The city’s two-year spending program calls for $14.7 million in general fund expenses in the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Councilwoman Jody Scott, who wants city employees to pay a share of their retirement benefits, was the only no vote. Mayor Larry McCallon was absent.

Scott said by phone this week that she opposed the plan because it requires Highland to pay the full amount of employees’ retirement contributions to the Public Employees Retirement System. She said that includes the city’s share, equal to about 14 percent of pay, and the employees’ share, about 8 percent.

“I just don’t think we should be giving away the farm for future generations,” she said.

Scott said she wants employees to at least pay their share of the retirement contribution.

City Manager Joe Hughes told the council earlier that the budget is balanced without any cuts in service, but warned that cuts in law enforcement may come if San Bernardino County is unable to stave off two pay raises for sheriff’s deputies in the coming year.

The city is dipping into reserves to pay $63,000 a year to add a gang crime detective to the force of deputies working for the city under a $6.8 million contract with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

Hughes said the city has set aside enough money to accommodate a 2.5 percent increase in the cost of the contract.

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