Without new revenue, the city of Lompoc may lose six police officers and four firefighters, according to a staff presentation.  (City of Lompoc)

After hearing several pleas to protect public safety funding, the Lompoc City Council has rejected asking voters to consider new taxes to help boost city coffers, instead directing staff to craft a draft budget without that potential revenue.

The City Council voted 3-2 on Tuesday night to ask staff to return with the proposed spending blueprint that did not include new taxes.

Councilmen Jim Mosby, Dirk Starbuck and Victor Vega supported the motion, while Mayor Jenelle Osborne and Councilwoman Gilda Cordova voted against it.

“A personal philosophy of mine is you live within your means,” Starbuck said. “The city does not live within its means.”

Several council members also expressed concern about adopting a budget based on potential future revenue.

“You have to vote on what you have,” Starbuck said.

Vega said he expected City Hall to look at non-essential services, preferably not in public safety, that could be cut.

“We just want you guys to balance your budget first,” Vega said.

City staff said a 1 cent sales tax, or 1 percent, could generate $4.9 million annually.

Other options included a 1 percent utility user’s tax to raise $705,000, and a hotel bed tax hike to add $440,000 yearly.

Staff also presented other potential revenue sources, including selling advertising space on city vehicles and establishing vehicle parking permit fees. However, those would raise only a fraction of the revenue needed to meet shortfalls. 

Like other cities, Lompoc faces a huge bill for the California Public Employees Retirement System, creating the budget woes.

To illustrate the need, staff presented a budget showing 8 percent cuts to departments, including slashing 10 full-time employees in the police and fire departments.

The city has already left 28 positions empty as vacancies arose in recent months to get the budget under control, Accounting and Revenue Manager Dean Albro said.

City Manager Jim Throop said that in his 30 years working at various cities, Lompoc’s current financial woes, including minimal reserves, have him more concerned than he has been in the past.

Many speakers urged the council to let voters have a say about the sales tax, while others questioned why cannabis permits were not being issued on a timely basis so the associated tax could help the city.

“For the love of Pete will you please at least put the sales tax up to a vote?” one woman told the council.

David Casper, chief executive officer of dental products firm Den-Mat, said the Lompoc-based business employs 300 people in Lompoc and has grown, with 22 new full-time positions so far this year.

“Safety and security is more than a feeling that my employees and our residents need to have. They actually need to see the results,” he said. 

“A city known for being safe and inviting has unlimited potential to attract a wide variety of businesses who then in turn attract a type of family who are not coming for low-income housing and free services but rather an opportunity to grow, advance and invest.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.