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Goleta City Council Allocates Carryover Budget Funds

A large portion of the $429,000 is put toward a new City Hall, with the remaining money going to law enforcement and Girsh Park

The Goleta City Council on Tuesday revisited the city’s tight budget and wrangled over what to do with the little wiggle room it had with some carryover funds from the last fiscal year.

Aside from the financial crisis affecting nearly every municipality in California, the city was already set to endure several years of flat finances partly because of the loss of vehicle license fees, the revenue from which had been part of the city’s income until just recently. Other factors, such as the city’s ongoing revenue-neutrality agreement with the county and the overall decline of bed and sales taxes, contributed to a $1.86 million budget deficit balanced out by a series of personnel cuts, project delays, employee furloughs and decreased contributions to local nonprofits.

With $429,000 in carryover funds from fiscal year 2008-09 up for grabs, council members went back and forth over restoring funding to the police program, from which they had to cut two positions, while the financially embattled Girsh Park Foundation made a bid to have its usual level of city funding restored, as it had been experiencing a decrease in fees collected along with increased maintenance costs.

Meanwhile, the Wynmark Co.‘s Mark Linehan, developer of Camino Real Marketplace, indicated to the council that $110,000 in annual funds Wynmark allocated for the deputy position at the marketplace would be withdrawn if Wynmark was to take over the maintenance of Girsh Park, which is affiliated with the marketplace.

The council started out with a $100,000 slice of the pie to put toward its due diligence obligations of the possible purchase of a building for the new City Hall, a project recently deferred over concern for its $14 million price tag and need for further study by staff. The council also took $13,000 off the top to put toward law enforcement.

After much discussion, the council voted 3-2 — with Councilman Eric Onnen and Mayor Roger Aceves dissenting — to restore funding for the balance of the fiscal year for one of the detective positions the city had eliminated, with the idea that it would revisit the issue during midfiscal-year budget deliberations in February 2010.

The council also restored the $40,000 balance to Girsh Park funding for the current fiscal year, contingent upon Wymark restoring funding for the deputy position. According to Onnen and Aceves, Linehan had indicated he was amenable to such an arrangement, but it has yet to become official.

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Margaret Connell and Councilman Ed Easton, along with Aceves, pushed to allocate up to $126,000 to eliminate the 6.5-day furlough for city employees, opting instead to offer employees the choice of volunteering to take furlough days during the holidays — although by midyear analysis, if the budget looks bleak, city employees might be required to take days off. The motion passed 4-1, with Onnen dissenting.

With the remaining funds, Onnen lobbied the council to restore another $40,000 to Girsh Park funding, a move supported by Councilman Michael Bennett because it would “take the question out” of whether Wynmark would continue to fund the additional police officer for fiscal year 2010-11. The $40,000 also would be contingent on Wynmark’s participation.

Onnen received support from a skeptical Connell by including in his motion a final $2,000 allocation to Goleta Valley Junior High School’s after-school program.

The City Council and staff will revisit the budget again in early 2010.

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

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