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Santa Barbara City Council Approves $360 Million Budget, Funds Bilingual Public Information Officer

Council funds full-time, Spanish-speaking public information officer to communicate with the public, media during disasters

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved its $360.6-million budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

The council balanced its 2019 budget without the use of any reserve funds. 

“It’s a pretty big deal to pass our budget,” Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo said.

As part of the budget approval, the council agreed to hire a full-time Spanish language translator/interpreter to communicate with the public and the media during disasters.

The city staff originally had only budgeted for a part-time, $35,000 annual position, for the fire department, in response to the Jan. 9 Montecito debris flow.

Some members of the community criticized the city for only translating information, and not using a bilingual public information officer.

Since the job is full time, the city plans to use the position in areas other than just the City Fire Department. 

“This will be a citywide resource for all departments,” City Administrator Paul Casey said.

Although it wasn’t discussed at the meeting, the biggest challenge looming for the city is rising pension costs.

Santa Barbara plans to spend $23.3 million in pension costs for its employees in the 2019 fiscal year and by 2025, the number is expected to reach $40 million per year.

Salaries and benefits consume $100.3 million out of the city’s overall $156.1-million budget and public safety departments (police and fire) make up about half of the general fund expenditures.

In the current fiscal year, citywide property taxes grew by 4.6 percent, while transient occupancy taxes dropped .04 percent. Sales taxes also fell 1.7 percent.

Next year's budget expects sales tax revenues to increase 1.5 percent.

Click here to read the 2018-19 budget documents for the city of Santa Barbara. 

“This is the culmination of a lot of time and effort,” Finance Director Bob Samario said of the budget adoption.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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