City Council Brainstorms Today to Solve $9 Million Deficit

Painful Cuts Likely Next Year for All Departments - Even Public Safety

The Santa Barbara City Council will be presented with an extensive menu of grim financial news at a special meeting today at which city administrators hope to resolve next year’s $9 million projected budget short-fall. (For comparative purposes, the city’s general fund is roughly $100 million.) On the table will be a smorgasbord of painful cuts for all departments, even public safety. In addition, there will be some discussion of possible tax increases, but those would require a vote of approval by city residents before they could be enacted. Santa Barbara City Finance Director Robert Pierson noted that a half-cent sales tax increase could raise $10 million, but he also expressed skepticism about voter support given that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is already talking about increasing the sales tax statewide by 1.5 cents. So far, there’s been no talk of laying-off existing employees. Instead, a proposed remedy is not filling vacant positions. In any case, services will suffer. “There’s only so far you can stretch a piece of Saran Wrap before it pops,” Pierson said. The city’s reserves for natural disasters are fully funded at $16 million, but its general fund reserves are more than $9 million shy of the $10.5 million currently required by city policy.

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