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Local News

Santa Barbara Council Hears Good Budget News

Increased tax revenues will help the city avoid big spending cuts, and labor unions will not be asked to make concessions

The City of Santa Barbara’s strong tax revenues and plan for a “status quo” budget means no significant cuts to services next year, city staff members said in a presentation to the City Council on Tuesday.

Many departments have experienced harsh cuts in the recent years, though, and those won’t be added back under the proposed budget.

Sales tax revenues have improved and the transient occupancy tax, or bed tax, is higher than peak 2007 levels, according to Finance Director Bob Samario. That leaves an $880,000 deficit, which the city proposes closing with one-time money found in various city funds, including capital reserves. The proposed operating budget for 2013 is $252 million, and the proposed capital budget is $19.8 million.

Pension costs were lower than expected but still increased from 2012, according to Samario. He said all retirement plans are underfunded and that there will be a rate change coming in 2014 that will kick off high rates “for the foreseeable future.”

No labor unions will be asked to make concessions this year — for the first time in three years — and the city’s workforce will be at 999 positions, dropping to 1999 levels, down from a peak of 1,088 in 2009.

The biggest change from the 2011-12 budget is the elimination of the Redevelopment Agency, which takes $20 million in annual revenues with it and leaves the fate of many programs in the hands of a new oversight board. Some costs that were footed by the RDA now have to be paid out of the General Fund, including the $250,000 lease for the Police Department annex.

Nine positions will be eliminated in connection to the RDA, but the employees will be transferred to other departments or become planners for community development.

The proposed budget assumes RDA money can be used to keep funding programs, including the $352,070 restorative policing program; $300,000 toward the Metropolitan Transit District downtown shuttle program; $60,000 annual property management costs for Paseo Nuevo; and $250,000 toward remediating leaking underground fuel tank sites.

Over the next three months, the City Council will hear presentations from each department and come up with a final budget to adopt by June 30. Click here to read the recommended budget and for the workshop schedule.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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