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Public Works, City Attorney Outline Cost-Cutting Strategies

The city departments present their proposed budgets in the second of 10 workshops

In the second of 10 budget workshops, Santa Barbara city staff gathered Thursday and outlined cost-cutting strategies for the public works and city attorney departments.

Public works, which has expenditures of about $91 million and 287.5 full-time employees for fiscal year 2011, plans to reduce staff and programs to balance its budget for next year.

Some general and intracity service fund positions would be eliminated, a few of which are already vacant, and the department plans to cut $79,000 of the private property graffiti abatement program. The city still would take care of graffiti in the public right-of-way.

The street sweeping fund, which relies heavily on parking citations, is expected to have lower revenues next year. For fiscal year 2009-10, some street sweeping fund reserves were used to balance the budget shortfall, but the fund is now facing some cutbacks in sweeping coverage throughout the city. The expanded, noncitation areas, generally in parts of town that aren’t heavily used for parking, are swept twice a month but may be cut back further.

Water and sewer rates are scheduled for rate increases to pay for current costs and upcoming capital projects, including treatment plant and pipe replacements. Additionally, water treatment costs skyrocketed after the Zaca Fire, according to Thursday’s staff presentation.

Some costs to the department are a bit more unusual. The engineering division has a problem with theft, with 50 to 100 street name signs being stolen per month, the staff said.

The transportation division plans to accept credit cards at downtown parking lots by the end of the calendar year, which may increase revenues as well as convenience to customers.

Staff also discussed the city attorney office, which has six attorneys and five clerical staff. To make its budget, the department proposed cutting one assistant city attorney position, which would translate to a $214,000 savings, and reducing the hours of a law clerk.

Reduced staff would mean lower response times to department requests and a higher workload for remaining staff members since the city has as many legal issues as ever, according to city documents.

Priority objectives for next year include implementing ordinances for the general plan update, code enforcement and working with departments to prevent tort liability.

The next special City Council budget workshop is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 735 Anacapa St. The community development/redevelopment agency and library department will present their budget-balancing strategies.

Click here for more information on the budget workshops and proposed budget details.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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