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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on June 24th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 17 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 17

Solvang passes budget amid COVID uncertainty

By Zac Ezzone

As a city that relies heavily on people visiting its businesses for tax revenue, the city of Solvang has been rocked by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

While businesses that were closed due to the public health crisis are beginning to open back up, uncertainty regarding the future of the virus and how it affects people’s desire to travel presents challenges for the city. 

“Even if everything goes well, there’s uncertainty for economic recovery and how quickly the economy will reboot not just in Solvang, but also at the state and national and international levels that impact our tourism,” City Manager Xenia Bradford said during the June 22 City Council meeting.

According to a staff report for the meeting, the city is estimated to lose a combined $4 million between this fiscal year and the upcoming year that begins in July. To try to compensate for this lost revenue, the city has significantly reduced its expenses, partly through cutting staff. 

During the current fiscal year that ends in June, the city allocated 3.5 staff positions in its planning department. The city has zero staff allocated to this department for the next year in the budget that the council approved during the June 22 meeting.

Additionally, the city reduced the staffing allocated to its Parks and Recreation Department from 4.8 positions to two; its Public Works Department from eight positions to 5.25; and its Administration Department from seven positions to 5.5. In total, the city cut the number of staff positions its general fund supports by about 10. 

Mayor Ryan Toussaint said he’s pleased that structural changes the council has made to the city’s expenses over the last year have prepared the city to pass a balanced budget that’s focused on essential services. Without these changes, he said the city would quickly drain its reserves while dealing with and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic

In a written public comment, resident Joan Jamieson criticized the council for not funding youth-oriented programs in this budget.

“Maybe [the council] forgot that we no longer have a Parks and Recreation Department, which provided many youth activities especially during the summer to families with children who need the activity,” Jamieson said. “Please do not use COVID-19 and social distancing as an excuse not to have some programs.”








Weekly Poll
What'd you make of the county's decision to close beaches for the Fourth of July weekend?

It was sensible since counties to the south closed their beaches.
I was OK with it. I set off fireworks at home instead.
It was ridiculous. The restrictions have to stop.
It didn't matter. I went to SLO County.

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