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Local News

Santa Barbara Council Authorizes $447,260 in Arts Grants, New Police Contract

Labor agreement calls for employees to pay their entire 9 percent pension contribution by 2016

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday authorized $447,260 in arts grants that will be given to dozens of nonprofit organizations and theater and dance companies.

The Santa Barbara County Arts Commission manages the grant process, and all of the money goes toward city arts and cultural organizations and community promotion.

Money is broken down with $287,312 going to grant requests, $136,000 for coordinating and administering city arts programs, and $24,000 for special grants, according to the city.

Councilman Randy Rowse said during Tuesday's meeting that arts funding generates visitor interest. He asked why some organizations are given only a portion of the money they request, while others — such as the COAST-sponsored Santa Barbara Open Streets event — get almost the full amount.

Ginny Brush, executive director of the County Arts Commission, said some people apply for the maximum amount no matter what, while others think about how much they need and what would be reasonable given the available money. It also helps when an event is likely to attract out-of-town visitors.

All of the grant proposals are reviewed by committee and then submitted to the City Council for final approval.

The City Council also approved a new employment contract with the Police Officers Association, which will make employees pay their entire 9 percent pension contribution by 2016.

The city wants all of its employees to pay the full 9 percent member contribution to the California Public Employees Retirement System pension plan, and the city has been paying all or most of this contribution for police in addition to the city’s portion.

The sworn employees will pay 3 percent of salary into their retirement plans for the current year, 6 percent the second year and 9 percent the third year. They will be getting a 5 percent increase in salary over that same time, according to employee relations manager Kristy Schmidt.

Public safety employees have the highest pension rates and benefits of city employees, and the city has been negotiating concessions to deal with the severely-underfunded pension fund.

Non-sworn Police Department employees will get a 1.5 percent salary increase next year and a 2 percent increase the next year. They, like most other city employees, already contribute the full 9 percent member contribution toward their retirement plans.

All police employees will get “some modest increases to their health insurance and permanently give up the vacation cash-out that had been a benefit before,” Schmidt said.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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