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South Coast City Wrangling With Budget Crisis; Oxnard Looking At $9.2 Million Dollar Shortfall

Oxnard's Carnegie Art Museum could potentially be closed as a result of the city's ongoing financial crisis.

It’s been a rough few weeks for some arts groups on the South Coast, which could be among the casualties of a city’s ongoing financial crisis. A city’s financial woes are threatening to close or create major cutbacks for some local institutions like Oxnard’s Carnegie Art Museum. The City of Oxnard has been limping through budget shortfalls for the last few years.

It’s facing its biggest budget gap yet, some $9.2 million dollars. Oxnard’s City Manager has proposed $6.6 million dollars in cuts, and using $2.6 million in reserves. The cuts could include 28 layoffs, reductions in fire and police department overtime, and the closure of the Oxnard Performing Arts Center and the Carnegie Art Museum.

Oxnard City Manager Alex Nguyen says the projected gap for the upcoming fiscal year is about the same as last year, which was $7 million dollars. But, he says because of the past mismanagement of benefits for some city employees, the city needs to come up with another $2.2 million dollars, raising the total to $9.2 million dollars.

Many Oxnard residents are upset, and frustrated by the situation. Manual Herrera is a community activist with the group “Citizens for a Better Oxnard.” Herrera suggestion is to borrow money to get through the fiscal year from Measure O, a voter backed tax measure to beef up public safety and public works in the city. But Nguyen says the already borrowed $16 million dollars from Measure O to fill budget gaps. He says Oxnard can no longer put off the inevitable, and the city needs to make some tough decisions.

Steve Kinney, with the non-profit group which runs the Carnegie Art Museum, says they know the city can’t continue to subsidize it. But, he’s hoping there’s a way to avoid a total shutdown now, and to give the non-profit a few years to ramp of fundraising to run the museum.

Nguyen says the bottom line is some very tough choices will have to be made. He notes that at the same time they are looking at spending, they are looking at ways to increase revenue to help get the city’s long term financial situation back on track.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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