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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on April 16th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 7 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 7

State of the City speech highlights successes, lays out budget challenges in Lompoc


The sound of glasses clinking and silverware scraping against plates died down as Lompoc City Manager Jim Throop took the stage at the Dick DeWees Community and Senior Center April 4.

Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne characterized her state of the city speech as a “reality check,” noting the many budgetary challenges the city faces in the coming year.

Throop was there to give a brief introduction of Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne, who gave an annual presentation on the state of the city. In his comments, Throop—who'd been hired to his position nine months ago—laid out the challenge of the presentation: to balance the accomplishments of the previous year with some of the very serious obstacles facing the city as it looks to the future.

"The problem I see is all these challenges in front of us. I guess I'm trying to turn that into how we can make these challenges successes," he said. "I know if I can get everyone in this room—the business owners, the citizens, city staff, and anyone else we can think of—we can be very successful, and this city is going to be a shining jewel on the Central Coast very soon."

Osborne took a similar tone in her presentation, calling her State of the City speech a chance to celebrate the city's successes while taking a closer look at its growing challenges.

"It's a good thing you like challenges," she told Throop after taking the stage, "because we have quite a bit on our horizon."

Before she outlined those challenges, Osborne highlighted successful projects and programs that the city carried out in the past year as it celebrated its 130-year anniversary. One of the biggest was Lompoc's effort to address homeless camps in the Santa Ynez Riverbed. The massive effort included multiple city departments and partnerships with Santa Barbara County nonprofit organizations. The massive cleanup effort was completed in a short period of time before heavy rains filled the river in early 2019.

"The efficient and diligent efforts prevented the loss of life in the riverbed," she said.

Osborne also touted other accomplishments, including completing much-needed makeovers and infrastructure improvements in several city parks and recreation fields, as well as economic initiatives like the city's commercial facade rebate program and its homebuyers assistance program.

Osborne also highlighted the work of public safety personnel, noting that Lompoc's detective division maintained a 70 percent clearance rate on the crimes it investigated last year and also solved all felony assault crimes for the year.

"This is impressive given the constant low staffing numbers [at the police department]," she said.

The second half of the presentation was dedicated to the city budget and its projected deficit for the upcoming fiscal years, an issue Osborne referred to as "the elephant in the room."

"The elephant isn't going to move on its own," she said. "Frustration and anger won't eliminate it. Being proactive can reduce its impact on our quality of life."

Osborne spoke about the city's budget for fiscal years 2019 through 2021, which the city is currently in the process of developing. She noted that the rising cost of unfunded liabilities from the state's pension system would cost the city an estimated $4 million during the budget cycle. She also said that the city received just 1 percent of its 7.75 percent sales tax—the rest of the tax revenues are divided between the county and state.

Despite the wide gap in revenue, Osborne said that Lompoc residents still want the city to prioritize public safety and economic development in the next budget, something that will be difficult to do if a remedy for the lack of revenue can't be found. The solution can't rely on spending reductions alone, she said.

"If we continue only to cut to try and solve our unfunded liability [problem], we cut people," she said. "And that means a reduction in services when it comes to public safety and these other areas."

Osborne didn't mention a recent failed attempt to get city staff to include consideration of a 1 percent sales tax increase in its upcoming preparations of the proposed budget. Both Osborne and Lompoc City Councilmember Gilda Cordova voted against excluding consideration of the tax increase. Osborne did call on the community to "invest" in itself, warning that outside interests would not do the same if city residents failed to do so.

"This is not a doom and gloom moment. This is a reality check," Osborne said. "It is up to you, the residents and business owners, to decide if Lompoc will continue to see itself as a poor community, unable to improve, or move forward."

Staff Writer Chris McGuinness can be reached at cmcguinness@santamariasun.com.

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