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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on May 22nd, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 12 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 12

Lompoc moves toward final budget with cuts

By ZAC EZZONE

In the latest, and often contentious, conversation over Lompoc’s 2019-21 biennial budget, the City Council made it clear the budget would include cuts, but council members also made informal plans to discuss a sales tax measure at a later date.

The city held its fourth budget workshop meeting on May 15, where City Council and city staff again discussed the $3.6 million deficit the city is facing over the next two years. Over the course of the four meetings, the debate has centered on whether council would approve a budget balanced by cuts or a budget balanced by a 1 percent sales increase, which would have to be approved by voters.

Toward the end of the meeting, Councilmember Gilda Cordova said if the city relies on cuts alone, without a sales tax measure in the future, the city could have the same conversation in a few years.

“What I’m not seeing and what I’m not hearing is ever a plan or vision on how we are going to move forward,” Cordova said. “We can cut for two years, and we will be in this situation two years from now again.”

At a previous budget workshop meeting on April 17, the council asked city staff to come back with potential budget recommendations not reliant on a tax measure. City staff responded with three options, which staff members presented at the May meeting. The first option included a 8.7 percent cut across all departments, the second option included eliminating positions, and the third option included holding vacancies open and other cost reductions.

According to the staff presentation, option two proposed eliminating the city’s code enforcement division, economic development division, and two positions within the city’s planning division. Option three proposed holding vacant positions open in the city’s parks, police, and maintenance departments, among other measures.

Both options also proposed reductions to the fire department’s budget, including cutting funding for overtime and suspending certain salary incentives.

After a lengthy debate, City Council members decided to pursue a combination of options two and three, and they set a follow-up workshop meeting for May 28. Management Services Director Dean Albro said it’ll take about 60 days to draft the budget, which leaves the city short on time with the fiscal year beginning on July 1.

Mayor Jenelle Osborne opposed the council’s further discussing option two because it would result in the layoffs of city employees.

“Option two is pink slips as of July 1, and I believe that affects morale,” Osborne said. “It affects our community and the ability to do the work that needs to be done.”

Osborne pushed the council to consider balancing the budget with a sales tax measure. However, the majority of the council rejected this idea. Instead, Councilmember Jim Mosby suggested that the council discuss a sales tax measure in August, while Councilmember Dirk Starbuck recommended discussing the potential measure in June. Ultimately, council members didn’t set a date for that discussion, but they agreed to pick up the topic after approving the budget.

Despite the council’s informal plans to discuss a sales tax measure at a later date, some residents voiced support for such a measure during the meeting’s public comment period, which followed the council’s discussion.

“I would propose that the council respect the citizens of Lompoc and let us make our own decisions about whether we can afford a 1 percent sales tax or not,” one resident said. “Don’t take that possibility out of our hands. Let us get this on the ballot and vote for it.”




Weekly Poll
Should the proposed aquifer exemption in Cat Canyon be approved?

Yes—the water from the proposed area can't serve as drinking water.
No—oil containments could still pollute usable groundwater.
Additional oil and gas projects can create more jobs.
We need to move away from oil and gas and look at renewable energy projects.

| Poll Results