Sunday, June 24 , 2018, 12:34 am | Overcast 64º

 
 
 
 

Local News

City Council Counting on Labor Concessions to Brighten Budget Outlook

The cost savings are factored into an amended list of priorities approved Monday

As the Santa Barbara City Council gave some last direction to city staff on Monday about next year’s adopted budget, the cuts were bleak but there was hope for some relief if labor concessions come through.

That big if — which is far from reality, as only the Police Officers Association is contractually required to come to the negotiating table at this time — is whether the city will get any concessions and if they’ll come soon enough to matter for next year.

Finance Director Bob Samario said Monday that 78 percent of the city’s costs are in salaries and benefits.

Council members operated under the assumption that the predicted concessions — 6 percent to 8 percent for each employee group — would come through, and that some programs and positions could escape the chopping block.

All departments are facing employee and program cuts for next year, though the severity differs for each one. Business-type funds — the solid waste, airport, parking and waterfront departments – have fared decently so far since they have the ability to adjust fines and fees to compensate for spending needs.

The real crisis centers on the general fund, which includes administration, public safety, community development, public works, parks and recreation, and the library.

The City Council’s “wish list,” which amounts to more than $4 million in restorations, prioritized public safety, with hopes for adding back police officers and a training fire captain. While the police department is authorized to have 140 sworn employees, it currently has 135 — only 121 of which are functional (many are injured or deployed overseas), according to Deputy Police Chief Frank Mannix.

The council’s other priorities included keeping the sobering center open, and funding the New Beginnings Counseling Center and Ortega Park’s recreational swimming pool.

Councilman Frank Hotchkiss listens to the public speak out about budget priorities Monday
Councilman Frank Hotchkiss listens to the public speak out about budget priorities Monday. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Pushing aside some reservations of counting chickens before they hatch, the council voted unanimously to approve the amended list of priorities that spends the cost savings from labor concessions. The staff has the understanding that the recovered items can’t be realized until concessions come through, but the priorities are clear. 

Many people spoke in favor of restoring funding to The Santa Barbara Channels, which was set to be cut 33 percent, and the council included a $50,000 bump to the public access TV station in its amended priority list. Also added were stipends for the Planning Commission, money to keep park restrooms open and maintained, and $50,000 to the library department for collections, as staff preferred that over keeping downtown branches open on Mondays.

Big cuts still facing residents next year include staffing and program reductions across the board.

Concessions are mostly one-time fixes — and there are millions in scheduled increases for the next two years — and budgetary reserves are only 10 percent of what they’re supposed to be.

Some noticeable service cuts include closing the Central and Eastside libraries on Mondays and cutting private property graffiti abatement (the city still will take care of it in the public right-of-way), and there will be increased fees for certain services.

City Administrator Jim Armstrong said the staff will come back to the council on June 29 with a strategy that doesn’t commit spending until further along in negotiations.

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

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >