The City of Goleta is looking at a sunnier financial picture than it thought during budget sessions this summer, and voted this week to add back a previously eliminated patrol position in its contract with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.
The city contracts with the Sheriff’s Department for its law enforcement services, and was forced to cut two patrol positions because of rising costs.
But this week, the City Council issued a unanimous vote to restore one of those positions, at a cost of $117,453. It will cover the position only from Dec. 1 to June 2012, and the council will re-evaluate its financial position during the next budget cycle.
With personnel costs expected to increase 4.6 percent next fiscal year, the cost of each motor unit is estimated to cost the city $210,610.
The decision comes at a time when revenues in the city are better than expected. Its bed tax remains on the upswing, and property taxes continue to remain steady, according to Finance Director Tina Rivera.
“Goleta has not seen the significant drop in property taxes that other communities have,” she said, adding that the city also has some large projects in the pipeline that could have positive effects.
Because of the changes, the city will have $558,000 in unassigned reserves this time next year.
“The not-so-good news is that all of the forecasts indicate that we won’t return to prior levels anytime in the near future,” she said. “While we’re better off, we need to recognize that as of the first quarter, we’re better off largely due to one-time revenues.”
Going forward, Rivera stressed the importance of the city living within its means and watching the rising cost of services.
“While we may be OK for a few years, eventually, as many other cities and the state have seen … our luck does run out,” she said.
Councilman Roger Aceves said he would have liked to see the city fund two motor officers until June. He raised concerns about the city’s traffic-related fatalities, of which the city has seen four since August.
“We’ve taken [patrol officers] off the street to conduct difficult investigations and it’s reduced our enforcement numbers,” he said.
Mayor Margaret Connell agreed.
“When we had all those fatalities, essentially our motors were off the streets. I absolutely support the need to put one back … but I want to be somewhat on the conservative side here,” she said, adding that she wanted to re-evaluate it in June.