WEATHER »

MONEY TALKS


A deal is in the works to end the long and often acrimonious impasse between the Santa Barbara Police Officers Association and City Hall over contract negotiations. A majority of Santa Barbara City Council- members appear willing to sign off on a three-year contract giving police a 26 percent pay hike, 2 percent more than “the last, best, and final offer” delivered by city negotiators six weeks ago. Proponents of the plan have suggested the difference could be made up by reducing the number of officers from the 141 budgeted to 137. They also say this sizable raise can be given without dipping into city reserves. It is possible, however, that such a raise could limit the department’s ability to reestablish the beat coordinator system and other popular aspects of community-oriented policing.

Looking to accent their nearby casino and resort holdings, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash announced this week that they are close to finalizing the purchase of the Royal Scandinavian Inn in Solvang. With escrow expected to close in early 2007, the Chumash Nation is purchasing the 133-room hotel for an undisclosed sum with hopes of remodeling it in the coming months.

Greka Energy Company agreed to pay $75,000 to settle the remaining 10 complaints filed by the District Attorney’s office for operating without the proper county fire and air pollution control licenses at its Santa Maria asphalt facility. The embattled North County energy company also volunteered to post a $150,000 bond, which it will lose if it fails to remain in compliance. This settlement is in addition to the $675,000 that Greka already agreed to pay the DA’s office this year to resolve other environmental permit complaints.

Santa Barbara Teachers Union leaders are scrambling this week after a state mediator failed to make any rulings after two rounds of meeting with them and the SB School District in their ongoing teacher salary negotiations. At the negotiator’s urging, the union is set to vote on the matter on November 27, though the independent mediator suggested teachers should take the cash-strapped district’s proposed 1.5 percent pay increase – which takes into account cost of living and other variables – rather than continue their fight for their preferred 6.5 percent hike.

Unemployment figures in Santa Barbara County dropped down to 3.4 percent last month, while the statewide unemployment rate of 4.5 percent is itself a record low. The county’s jobless rate dropped 0.3 percent from the prior month, with the biggest increase in employment being reported by the government sector.

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