The City of Santa Barbara may not be out of the woods, but fiscally speaking, it’s much better off than cities like Stockton and San Jose, now toying with bankruptcy. And it’s considerably better off than it expected to be. That’s according to the draft budget document released last week, on which the council will be gnawing until August.
Several months ago, city bean counters were anticipating a $2.7-million shortfall for the coming fiscal year; thanks to a robust bump in bed taxes and sales taxes, that’s now hovering at $800,000. For the first time in three years, city workers will not be asked to give up paid time in the form of furlough days. It’s worth noting that during the past three years, the unions representing city workers agreed to $13 million worth of concessions, $8 million from workers paid by the city’s general fund. In exchange, no actual employees were laid off as City Hall weathered the recessionary storms, though 80 positions have been lost.
With good times seemingly coming back, councilmembers will be looking at ways to reopen libraries on Mondays, keep the rental Housing Mediation Task Force afloat, and maintain the expanded restorative policing program. In the program’s ranks are one extra cop, six blue-shirted social services workers to connect the homeless with help, and six yellow-shirted “hosts” assigned to make their presence felt and keep the peace along State Street, Milpas Street, and the waterfront.