LOMPOC, Calif. - After countless budget workshops and contentious debate, the Lompoc City Council passed a budget Monday that includes over $3 million in cuts, resulting in pink slips for various city staff positions come July 1.
Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne cast the lone vote against the fiscal blueprint, as the council majority adopted a spending plan full of cuts and freezes that utilizes $300,000 of reserve funds.
"This is a deficit budget because we have a gap of $300,000 dollars that is a pull from general fund reserves. So while those around you may call it a balanced budget it is not, it is a deficit budget because we should not be using general fund reserves to cover operating costs," said Osborne.
Despite a last-ditch effort from Lompoc's Fire Chief to re-evaluate the cuts, the council voted four to one, finalizing the controversial budget proposal.
The 2019-2021 Biennial Budget holds some two dozen positions unfilled, including three police officer jobs and also eliminates code compliance, cuts the planning department in half and slashes fire overtime by $600,000 dollars.
The battalion chief job on the chopping block directly impacts the fire marshal position. Lompoc's Fire Chief says the cuts drastically reduce Dena Paschke's hours, meaning she'll only be able to fulfill fire marshal duties nine times a month due to the workload.
Kuras highlighted the behind the scenes work the position entails, including new business inspections, new daycare inspections, cannabis business inspections and more.
"The guys the fire the other day, they are the ones that everybody sees, the fire marshal works behind the scenes and she keeps us extremely safe. Without that position we're putting the whole city in jeopardy," said Jerry Kuras, Lompoc Fire Chief.
"I don't feel that it has satisfied the public's demand. The public continued to show up at all of our council meetings for these discussions, expressed how important maintaining and actually improving our public safety and I believe that this particular budget actually fails them," said Osborne.
Amendments passed also allow City Manager Jim Throop to identify a transition and possibly move soon-to-be-laid-off employees, into open positions not impacted by the cuts to "soften the blow."
Council also requested that Throop bring back any future changes over $100,000 to the council, as opposed to moving funds as he saw fit in addition to a verbiage change as it pertains to an enterprise reimbursement study and maintaining a utility reduction that already exists.
Emotions were certainly running high, onlookers confirm for us that Councilman Jim Mosby got into a heated verbal altercation with Chief Kuras and a local pastor, to the point where it drew an audience after the conclusion of the budget workshop. Mosby could again be seen in the parking lot engaged in a heated conversation with fire officials well after 9:00 p.m.
The meeting started with Councilman Dirk Starbuck giving a presentation on a one-percent special sales tax measure, saying he wanted to "quell the hysteria" that has plagued these meetings.
Starbuck is suggesting a special sales tax with a 15-year sunset. Since it's special as opposed to a general tax, that would require a 67 percent vote to pass as opposed to a simple majority. ,
Starbuck is also suggesting a utility offset program to help low-income residents afford the one cent revenue generator.
The proposal could generate $85 million over a 15-year period, designating 75 percent of the funds to Calpers and 25 percent to public safety and quality of life services.
A unanimous vote gave city staff the instruction to review the proposal and bring data back to the council, including potential dates to get it on the ballot.