City Council gets first look at 2016-2017 Fiscal Budget

May 13, 2016
Santa Paula News

The budget is approaching fast the City Council learned at the May 2 meeting where they heard about city revenues and expenditures, discussion that will continue until June 20 when the council will be asked to adopt the plan for 2016-2017.

Finance Director Sandy Easley reported that the council would consider 

preliminary consideration of the draft budget at the regularly scheduled meeting on May 16, with public input “being highly desirable.”

A budget study session will be held June 6 “to allow for a more informal discussion involving the policies and goals contained in the draft budget,” set by the council to help guide spending based on priorities. 

The council noted Easley could request more budget sessions.

Easley touched upon highlights as well as detailed spending and revenues for all categories except capital improvement projects presented separately.

The presentation prompted questions by Councilwoman Ginger Gherardi.

“We’re drowning in minutia,” while ignoring needs and other issues. “We’re not getting the big picture yet,” of departmental needs in positions and staffing.

Easley said direction is being sought for personnel needs.

“I would like to hire in Public Works, not the General Fund,” to reinstate a deputy director and others needed in the department.

Gherardi said a full-time assistant to the city manager must be considered.

“The budget is tight but still see what we need,” information Gherardi said was not easily ascertained from the document.

She noted the Downtown Merchants Association has repeatedly requested more code enforcement, which would require a part-time officer and help is also needed in Planning to address certain issues.

From what could be garnered from business licenses — especially to make up for those the council previously was told were not being charged — Gherardi said could perhaps cover some costs.

There would not be enough to “cover bad taste, bad design and bad color,” that merchants have complained of said City Manager Jaime Fontes as a “body of regulations” suggested by a Cal Poly Downtown Study have not been adopted. 

When the “downtown groups” were asked “to come up with whatb they don’t like,” Fontes said three listed “the city couldn’t do anything about…”

Easley said the city is looking to purchase a street sweeper; police wants to convert part-time Community Service Officers positions to full-time and has been paying more for contractual services.

Property taxes are recovering over the last few years, but sales taxes are expected to increase to $2.46 million according to the city’s forecaster.

Mayor Martin Hernandez questioned large energy increases and Easley said all utilities are rising; solar could be a cost-cutting future measure. State funding in general remains lower than in past years.

Overall, Easley said, the budget as presented was negative $288,857, but with carryovers could become positive $62,132.

The council agreed to receive and file the report.

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