The Santa Barbara City Council on Monday unanimously approved adding a Trikke-riding police officer next year as part of the 2013-14 budget, set to be formally adopted June 18.
Finance Director Bob Samario presented a budget to the council members Monday afternoon after weeks of department presentations, which mostly proposed keeping status-quo funding.
Increasing sales and transient occupancy tax revenues means the city expects a surplus of about $430,000 next year. Council members decided to spend all of that money — and a little more — on service enhancements.
The “motorized foot patrol” police officer would stick to the Milpas Street and State Street business corridors to do enforcement for “quality of life” issues mostly related to the homeless population, Police Chief Cam Sanchez said. He asked for two officers, funded at $145,000 each, but the council members didn’t support it.
Councilwoman Cathy Murillo asked for the extra officer to be designated to the restorative policing program, but Sanchez insisted the enforcement area needed the extra person more.
“I don’t think anyone would argue with that wonderful function of a law enforcement tool and a social worker, and they really help people get off the streets,” Murillo said. “I look at how much money that is that’s not going to something else, and I’m willing to vote for it, but I hope we tell the Police Department to make it another restorative policing officer.”
There are 14 officers and outreach workers dedicated to that program, which works with local businesses and helps connect homeless people with family and services.
Sanchez said a lot of these officers spend time off the street with people getting them on buses and connecting them to services. When they do enforcement, it takes them off the street for three or four hours per arrest, he said.
Councilman Randy Rowse, a downtown business owner, said the community is “crying out” for more enforcement in the commercial corridors.
“Of course I value public safety, but during the dark times of budgets past, public safety departments were mainly kept whole,” Murillo said, adding that the Parks & Recreation and library departments were cut the deepest.
Council members agreed on most other priorities, and unanimously approved giving funding to other service enhancements as well. For the Community Development Department, the council approved more zoning enforcement hourly funding, $50-per-meeting stipends for design review board members, and funding for the city Arts Advisory Program. Council members approved funding a new full-time librarian and expanding the collection budget for the Library Department.
Parks & Recreation Director Nancy Rapp asked for additional park maintenance funding and more hourly recreation staff to deal with the huge increase in summer program participation, which the council approved. It also supported money for the youth job apprenticeship program.
The council didn’t support funding the Fire Department’s equipment requests, but vowed to make the communication upgrades a top priority when the capital budget is discussed in July.
The total appropriations went over the $430,000 estimated surplus, but Murillo argued that the number was conservative and other members agreed to spend past it.
Rowse initially had proposed moving funding around for downtown sidewalk cleaning and other maintenance, but his idea to use Measure B tax funds brought an onslaught of pushback. Environmental organizations showed up to reject the idea Monday during public comment, even though he had officially pulled his proposal.
“Measure B is not a slush fund,” said Brian Trautwein of the Environmental Defense Center. Voters approved the funds in 2000 for water quality and creek restoration, not existing city services such as maintenance and parade set-up, he said.
Rowse had proposed that the Creeks Fund pay $400,000 per year for sidewalk cleaning, which is now split with Downtown Parking and Parks & Recreation each paying $300,000, according to a staff report. With the creeks fund chipping in, Parks & Recreation could pay less and Parking would have more money for its capital program and MTD shuttle services, he proposed.
“It is not my intention to attempt to siphon off these funds for a purpose that thwarts voter intent,” he wrote in a letter to council members and staff. “I do, however, intend to advocate for the nexus that exists between this fund and the daily cleaning of the State Street sidewalks.”