The Goleta City Council began to tackle next year’s budget during a workshop Thursday, but it has yet to make any final decisions.

With a two-year budget planning system, some funding decisions can be postponed, but most ongoing costs must be considered now.

The council dug through each item, from travel costs for advisory boards to the multimillion-dollar public safety contract with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, during the 4½-hour meeting in the Council Chambers.

So far, the council’s input indicates there could be a $842,000 deficit next year and the use of $525,000 in unassigned funds, according to City Manager Dan Singer. He said the city has finished each year in the black since incorporation.

Council members reiterated their support for community resources such as Girsh Park and the Gang Task Force, and brought scrutiny to any items deemed less than essential.

Councilman Roger Aceves even opposed the use of $2,000 for the 10-year anniversary of the city’s incorporation, saying the event should rely on sponsorships and donations.

Many items only appear optional. The phones, the lease for City Hall and emergency phone maintenance are unavoidable costs. Councilman Michael Bennett said those and others weren’t “choice items” and shouldn’t have been included in the discussion.

The large public safety contract with the Sheriff’s Department will increase in cost while maintaining the same number of positions, from $6.3 million to $6.9 million for 2012 and $7.6 million for 2013. There has been an annual increase in cost, but the city would need to cover a $628,193 increase next year, according to Vyto Adomaitis, director of Redevelopment, Neighborhood Services and Public Safety. The five-year contract expires in June 2012.

The council requested that staff separate the items by department and show the implications on year two’s budget by decisions made on next year’s budget.

They will next discuss the budget at 1:30 p.m. May 31 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 130 Cremona Drive, Suite B in Goleta.

Regarding staff salaries, a hot topic in any jurisdiction, city staff said two-thirds of employee salaries are no longer considered competitive. For pensions, however, Goleta pays both the employer and employee share into the California Public Employees Retirement System.

Other municipalities in the Tri-County area are reconsidering this arrangement and have negotiated later retirement ages and having employees pay more into their own retirements, said Michelle Greene, administrative services director.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.