LOMPOC, Calif. - Despite passionate pleas from the community to have the opportunity to vote, a last ditch effort to get a sales tax measure on the ballot in Lompoc was shot down again.
To combat the nearly $4 million in the red and looming debt to Calpers, city staff presented a couple of hybrid budget options. In a split vote, the Lompoc City Council is moving forward with a proposal that makes cuts to public safety and holds a number of vacant city positions open.
“When will you stop, when there’s no city left,” asked a concerned Lompoc resident. “Stop micromanaging what you can’t comprehend and place this matter in the hands of the public, we figured it out in the first meeting.”
“The City Council majority is trying to put a Band-Aid on the gaping wound for the second budget cycle in a row,” said Danielle Morgan.
All but one voiced support for a sales tax measure and the community did not mince words.
“Public safety, that is your number one responsibility, to take care of the safety and health of the people in this community and you aren’t willing to fund police and fire,” said Janet Blevins of Lompoc, her voice shaking in anger.
Several in attendance took Councilmembers Jim Mosby, Dirk Starbuck and Victor Vega to task, holding their feet to the fire, advocating for the opportunity to be able to vote on a new revenue stream.
The phrase, “you three,” was used continuously throughout public comment.
“You guys must have ulterior motives and I don’t know what they are but this makes no sense, said Blevins.
Mayor Jenelle Osborne’s efforts to accept a deficit budget with a line item for a tax measure was DOA, with Osborne and Councilwoman Gilda Cordoba on one side and the three men on the other.
“I ask you why you want to go ahead and see blood and see pink slips go out as of July 1 just to prove your point that you want to cut now and then if the tax measure passes you’re willing to re-hire and bring people back,” said Osborne.
Instead, Mosby, Starbuck and Vega moved a budget option forward that holds three vacant police officer positions, eliminates a fire battalion chief, slashes $700,000 from fire overtime and cuts contributions to the Chamber of Commerce - without a 1 percent sales tax
As emotions continued to swirl, Councilman Vega defended his actions saying that going through the budget books is “probably very difficult for the public to grasp.”
“Once we have a balanced budget then we can discuss revenue enhancement,” said Councilman Starbuck. "If we’re going to ask for more money, I think we really need to really have our head above the sand and say this is what we intend and this is what we can do.".
“I think if we go through and you put a budget component together and you think that a tax is going to pass and it doesn’t pass, as the City Manager said, you’ll have to take drastic steps,” said Mosby.
But to Osborne and many concerned community members, this is already a drastic step.
“You just took several people, who have families and mortgages and everything else and threw them under the bus and you’re going to get rid of them on July 1. I really hope that when you see these people in the hallways as you work here at City Hall that you look them in the face, meet them one-on-one, face-to-face and you explain yourself,” said a concerned community member, pounding his fists into the podium as his voice swelled.
“It’s not a good idea, it’s not visionary. It’s setting up a legacy of failure, it’s saying you have no will to respect the community and I think better of you all,” said Osborne.
The proposed budget also eliminates two Code Enforcement and Planning positions. It also calls for the Public Information Officer role to be transformed into a grant writer.
No date was set for discussing a sales tax measure, more clarity is expected at City Council's upcoming June 4 meeting.