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Lompoc Council Agrees To Renew Animal Services Pact — For Now

During special meeting, city leaders continue to wrestle with budget shortfall

Councilmen Jim Mosby and Dirk Starbuck listen to a speak during the special meeting in Lompoc regarding the budget. Click to view larger
Councilmen Jim Mosby and Dirk Starbuck listen to a speak during the special meeting in Lompoc regarding the budget. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The city of Lompoc will pay Santa Barbara County to provide animal control services for another year, but will explore whether a different group could do the tasks for less money in the future.

Wednesday night’s special City Council meeting ended without an approved budget despite the city staff presenting two new proposals for cutting expenses.

While the budget remains up in the air, the City Council unanimously agreed to pay county Animal Services through June 30, 2018. The city will pay $26,987 a month for animal services and the operation of the shelter in Lompoc.

“This is just a suggestion —you might want to look at what they’re anticipating maybe for next year,” Councilman Jim Mosby said, noting the county also is dealing with serious financial woes and may hike the city's costs again next year. 

The new amount represents a 7.42 percent per capita rate increase in the county’s compensation over the previous year, although the Consumer Price Index was 2.5 percent, staff said. 

“We certainly hope you’ll enter into this contract for the next year, and we are absolutely happy to speak to you during the year and negotiate about what the following year might look like,” said Carrie Topliffe, interim director for the Santa Barbara County Health Department.     

The countywide animal services program costs $5.3 million, with 68 percent of costs going to salary and benefits.

Mayor Bob Lingl asked whether the county has considered requiring veterinarians to participate in a mandated rabies-reporting program, which would require submitting paperwork to the county.  Animal Services staff then could follow up with owners whose animals were not licensed.

Topliffe said the Health Department will submit a plan to the Board of Supervisors for the proposed mandated-rabies reporting program in approximately six months.

“The veterinarians, I don’t think, will be surprised when we come forward with that,” she said, adding that San Luis Obispo County has the program already. 

 City Manager Patrick Wiemiller added that staff has started exploring alternatives to contracting with the county, steps that may include soliciting a request for proposals or directly negotiating with a provider. 

Later, the council reviewed two more draft budget proposals aimed at trimming expenses.

One suggested moving employees to a 9/80 schedule — having them work a 9-hour workday and closing offices every other Friday— to save money. For the current budget cycle, he proposed closing every Friday to provide an incentive for people to use paid leave time.

He also proposed closing city offices between Christmas and New Year’s Day for the next two years. 

One proposal called for ending city support for outside events, such as the Flower Festival, eliminating a crossing guard grant to the Lompoc Unified School District, axing many commissions, and stopping staffing a fire rescue truck for responding to medical calls. The city also would postpone plans to demolish the old pool. 

Neither new option pleased Mosby, who has repeatedly said he wants to revert to previous staffing levels,

“We don’t have a revenue-generating program. We have a spending problem,” he said.

Councilwoman Jenelle Osborne said the community deserves to have a say in deciding whether to adopt tax measures —  included in a previous proposal the council majority balked at approving, saying the state system is designed to give voters a direct voice.

She also noted nearly two-thirds of the employees also live in Lompoc.

"The fact that we have a suggestion of furloughs that allows them to not be impacted to the point where they can't still be a member of our community is important to me because they're residents as well as employees. I really think this is a path forward,” she said.

During his presentation, the city manager also displayed a chart, using Transparent California data from 2015, showing Lompoc employees are the lowest paid among their colleagues in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. 

“I’m showing this because I want to make sure we understand it’s not the fact we have city employees that are overpaid for their professions. Consistently, we are trailing behind comparative cities,” Wiemiller said. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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