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Friday, February 22 , 2019, 3:03 am | Fair 42º


Santa Barbara Officials Continue to Explore Budget Strategies

With funding gaps expected in 2010 and 2011, City Manager Jim Armstrong says it's becoming more difficult to keep cuts from affecting services

The Santa Barbara City Council and department heads on Tuesday continued to discuss budget strategies for navigating the city’s funding shortfall.

Last week, the council tackled a $3 million funding gap expected for 2010, and officials have said a shortfall is likely for 2011.

City Manager Jim Armstrong said it’s becoming more difficult — even impossible — to keep the cuts from affecting services to the public. Depending on the state budget and city revenue, which has been in decline, it could “easily be a few million worse,” he said.

The largest costs to the general fund are salary and benefits, which have an average annual growth of 9.2 percent. Public safety departments — including police and fire — make up 52 percent of the total operating expenditures for fiscal year 2010. Many of the departments recover some costs through various fees and charges, but the bulk of revenue comes from taxes.

No decisions were made Tuesday, but each department presented options to further cut expenditures or increase revenue.

In addition to those, creative options such as utilizing volunteer and nonprofit efforts also will be considered. Labor negotiations have helped decrease expenditures for many departments, but no agreements have been made with police or fire for furloughs or other concessions, Armstrong said.

The next steps will be to further efforts to negotiate with employee organizations and explore other options. Big decisions such as enacting a medicinal marijuana tax or other new tax will be left for the new City Council to discuss.

Possible cuts discussed Tuesday included:

» Administrative Services: Facing an estimated budget loss of $362,000, the department may eliminate more positions and possibly cut the Learning for Excellence and Achievement Program. Since many of its services are internal, the public may not see as big of an impact from the cuts.

» City Administration: Making further cuts to City TV may be necessary, although some councilmembers were wary of cutting closed captioning or Spanish translation. Some board or commission meetings may not continue to be televised, Armstrong said.

» City Attorney: The small staff’s costs come mostly from salary and benefits, so the only substantial reductions will be made from personnel changes.

» Community Development: Looking at about $700,000 in cuts, it may cut six positions cut and add fees, director Paul Casey said. The new cuts can be absorbed, but staff is moving around more to compensate for vacant positions, he said. Many areas of the department are fully or nearly fully recoverable.

» Finance: Director Bob Sumario suggested leaving his old post of assistant director vacant.

» Fire: Chief Andrew DiMizio’s options were “dreadful,” but were aimed at providing ideas adding up to nearly $900,000. Ideas included extending vehicle replacement to 17-year cycles, having short-term intermittent station closures, reducing truck staffing from four to three people and eliminating positions. “It’s something no fire chief wants to do but something we have to do,” he said.

» Library: Hours and services are being cut as resources diminish and staff positions are eliminated. The staff suggested reducing youth services and networking services. Two public desks, the bookmobile and some online databases already have been closed.

» Parks and Recreation: The department expects a reduction of $1.4 million and “can’t make cuts like that and not feel them,” director Nancy Rapp said. Maintenance, facilities and programs are all facing additional cuts, and fees for camps and classes may go up.

» Police: The impacts for next year are expected to be similar to this year. While the department’s goals will remain responding quickly to calls and investigating crimes, the nonsworn staff has been cut to the bare bones, Chief Cam Sanchez said. Most of the resources are spent on salary and benefits, so that translates to reductions in staffing, Deputy Chief Frank Mannix said. Important nonfield positions such as DARE, PAL and beat coordinators could be cut, he said. Possible savings could come from renting less or none of the annex building, but probably only after the station is remodeled.

» Public Works: Ongoing measures to lower expenditures include keeping vacant positions, using hourly staff for surveying instead of a paid position and more. The impacts mostly will be internal, but too many additional cuts will hurt the ability to generate revenue or continue to provide services, the staff said.

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

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