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Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 3:46 am | Fair 51º


Santa Barbara Council OKs 2010-11 Budget, Dispensary Ballot Measure

Spending plan passes unanimously but city still faces negotiations with police union

After dozens of meetings and workshops and nearly a year’s worth of work from city finance staff, the Santa Barbara City Council unanimously approved a budget for 2010-11.

In the end, the budget for the fiscal year that starts Thursday includes some difficult choices. Under the plan, 32 full-time positions, most of which are vacant, will be eliminated and the Central and Eastside libraries will be closed Mondays. Repairs and improvements to city facilities and parks will also be deferred, and planning fees and library rental room fees are expected to increase.

But even though decision makers have signed off on the changes, much of the heavy lifting of negotiating is still ahead. Many of the items council members have asked to preserve in the budget are contingent on the city reaching an agreement on labor concessions with the Santa Barbara Police Officers Association.

“I’m pleased we’re finally here to adopt a budget,” said Assistant City Finance Director Bob Samario, who acknowledged there’s still work to be done with the negotiations. More concessions from labor groups are needed — the city still needs about $2 million in concessions — and the global economy is still shaky, he said.

Samario presented a list of items the council wanted to bring back, amounting to just over $1 million in cost, like the sobering station and positions for four police officers, and he said the city would know by September what the police union is willing to bring to the table.

Sales and bed taxes for 2010 are both down about 7 percent and property taxes are down 1 percent, he said. However, city finance staff is projecting that tax revenues for 2011 will be flat.

“Part of our strategy is that we’re hoping to see some level of recovery,” Samario said.

The city so far has been able to sync up revenues with expenditures, without use of the city’s reserves, which are already somewhat depleted from past years.

Also covered at Tuesday’s meeting was Santa Barbara’s medical marijuana ordinance and whether to bring the issue of a ban on dispensaries in front of voters in November.

Although the ordinance item was just on the consent calendar, the controversial topic still sparked some discussion on the dais. The ordinance was approved 6-1, with Councilman Grant House dissenting.

Councilman Das Williams pronounced his support for the ordinance, but noted “it’s far from perfect.” He said he is hopeful that the city can exercise oversight, which he said is far preferable to a ban. He called a ban “futile and an illusion.”

Councilman Bendy White said he felt the ordinance was a compromise, while Councilman Dale Francisco reiterated his concerns.

Francisco said he had nothing against legitimate use as provided for by state law for legitimate medical marijuana patients, and that approval of the ordinance was not an attempt to drive marijuana underground.

“This is not a discussion about legalization or prohibition of marijuana,” he said. “We have no control over that” as a city.

“The Compassionate Use Act, in my discussions with the city attorney, is quite clear; retail sales of marijuana are not legal,” he said.

House said he would not be supporting the ordinance because the last-minute revisions would put out of business what he called “two of the most responsible owners.”

“They’ve been abiding by the law,” House said. “That should be of great concern to small businesses in Santa Barbara.”

City Attorney Steve Wiley also presented ballot language to the council, and the council approved putting the measure on November’s ballot. The measure would ask voters to approve or deny the operation of storefront dispensaries within city limits.

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

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