The Goleta City Council on Tuesday approved new administrative positions and midyear budget allocations to put money toward a fourth Sheriff’s Department motorcycle traffic officer and replacing the Stow House roof.
City Manager Dan Singer asked for support positions in his office and the Finance Department.
He said adding an executive assistant, management assistant, deputy/assistant city manager or some combination of those would free him up to be more available to the council and department heads, and address the city’s operational and organizational issues.
The City of Goleta has nearly 50 employees, which is 30 percent more than five years ago, so it’s a good time to look at a different management structure, Singer said. He would be able to delegate more responsibilities to that person, but would stay in charge of overseeing departments and communicating with the council.
He offered several proposals, including an assistant or deputy city manager at $214,000, an assistant to the city manager at $122,880, a management assistant position at $98,850, or an internal promotion of a director to assistant/deputy city manager for a cost of about $5,700.
He preferred the higher-level position so there’s more succession planning and an extra critical eye, he said.
“That said, I don’t look to get greedy here,” Singer said.
He offered options because he knew it wouldn’t be easy for council members to sign off on a new $214,000 position.
“Any level of help is better than no level of help,” he said.
Every council member said there was no question that Singer needs more support, but asked him to come back with clear job descriptions for the position he would most want, and how much they would cost. His proposals were a little too vague, they decided.
“Given this information, I’m uncomfortable in the sense of definition, I’m not uncomfortable in sense of the cost, and I’m not uncomfortable in the sense that you need help,” City Councilman Michael Bennett said.
The issue is whether the position/s would help improve the function of the city, he added.
“Without knowing the person’s responsibilities, I think it’s an incomplete conversation,” Mayor Roger Aceves said.
The council did unanimously approve a full-time front desk receptionist position with benefits — replacing two part-time people — reclassifying two accounting specialists as accountants and adding one part-time accountant, for a total ongoing cost of $79,385.
The city has ongoing unassigned revenues of more than $1.4 million, so the increased staffing costs will come from there, Singer said.
Finance Director Tina Rivera said her staff is cross-trained so everyone can back each other up.
“Everyone needs to be able to perform the essential functions of the department — every two weeks, employees are paid and vendors are paid for services rendered,” she said. “In our department, we don’t have the luxury of being able to specialize as we would if in a larger organization.”
The reorganization and addition of a part-time accountant allows her to delegate more complex tasks and better manage the extra duties of collecting bed taxes, allocating tourism business improvement district money and auditing bed tax for all facilities annually.
Council members also approved allocating $200,000 to replace the historic Stow House’s wooden shingle roof, which was repaired to get it through the winter but is still in bad shape.
Storm events resulted in leaks so city staff had to accelerate the repairs and replacement of the entire roof, Singer said.
The work will be done this summer.
After some verbal sparring between Councilmen Jim Farr and Bennett, the council also approved adding back a fourth motorcycle traffic officer to its police force.
The position most likely won’t be filled until July, since many deputies have been moved to custody duty to make up for vacancies, Police Chief Butch Arnoldi said. Several more are going through academies and training right now, but won’t be finished for months.
“Right now we just do not have the manpower to do it,” he said.
The city contracts with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department for public safety services, and the fourth motor officer will cost $17,398 a month, or $208,775 yearly, Singer said.
During discussion, several council members said they had promised to bring back the fourth motor officer as soon as possible, and wanted to fulfill that obligation.
Farr, who was appointed in lieu of election in November, said he didn’t have that obligation and didn’t see the need for a fourth motorcycle unit.
The local officers “wear authority with a light hand” and do a great job, he said, but insisted that there are many other uses for that $200,000.
Farr said he sees no evidence for needing a fourth, and said he may be convinced if someone told him how the community would benefit, or how the criminal element would be “cowed,” by the additional presence.
Bennett said the public has made it clear that they want police, fire and public works services as a priority for the city. The community is at risk when there are fewer officers on the streets, and the number of traffic violations and citations dropped dramatically with the motorcycle units on the streets, he said.
“We were way up here and violations are now way down here, and those are the facts, irrefutable facts,” he said, adding that Farr should have someone help him get better informed.
Aceves cut in at that point and called for a roll call vote for the extra position. It passed, 4-1, with Farr dissenting.