LOMPOC, Calif. - Inching toward the finish line, a Lompoc City Council Budget Workshop convened after close to four hours of heated discussion and presentations.
The city held a fourth budget workshop Wednesday night.
"To be continued" seems to be a reoccurring theme for city leaders, as they have yet to emerge with a finite decision on how to balance the budget.
After reaching an impasse last month, the council decided that they would come back for a special meeting on May 28th, combining two budget options into one plan so officials can ultimately give direction to city staff as a deadline to compile the budget book quickly approaches.
However, there is still no concrete direction on a sales tax measure. Several community members were vocal about wanting to be able to vote for a sales tax measure, with colorful protest posters dotting the crowd.
The City Council was given three budget options to review, an 8.7 percent cut across the board and options two and three, which showed a variety of cuts that would lessen the deficit but result in cuts to city staff and public safety.
The council ultimately decided to move forward with a hybrid plan of options two and three.
Option two holds three vacant Lompoc Police Officer positions and hits the Lompoc Fire Department with a $1.3 million dollar cut, including the elimination of a Battalion Chief and suspending incentive and overtime pay.
Even with the cuts highlighted in option two, the spreadsheet indicates that Lompoc will still be dealing with an over $830,000 dollar deficit and that's not addressing the CalPERS debt.
Option three is less severe, it holds two vacant police positions and makes a $965,000 dollar cut to fire while holding a number of city vacancies.
The spreadsheet for option three shows that a one-cent sales tax would generate over $1.2 million dollars in one quarter.
Lompoc Finance Manager Dean Albro says it will be near impossible to pass a balanced budget, without a sales tax measure, without cutting public safety.
Mayor Jenelle Osborne was outspoken against option two, highlighting that that could lead to layoffs as soon as this summer.
“Normally I would like to present a united front and say we’re making progress. Unfortunately, I feel like we did a disservice to city staff once again. We didn’t provide direction so they could start building a budget for us to actually evaluate,” said Lompoc’s Mayor, Jenelle Osborne.
“The second part I’m disappointed about is not moving forward on this tax discussion. The public has continued to show up and continue to speak out and the majority says let us vote,” said Osborne.
There were discussions to delay the conversation on a proposed sales tax measure until this summer but the meeting ended without a resolution. Councilmen Jim Mosby, Dirk Starbuck and Victor Vega were vocal about the need to pass a budget before discussing a tax measure.
Finance officials used the term “sonic boom” when talking about how many vacancies they can realistically hold.