Sunnier City Budget

Santa Barbara Forced to Absorb Only $2.7 Million Shortfall

With so much budgetary bad news now befalling the County of Santa Barbara, there’s not much left over for the city, which, according to the draft budget presented to the City Council Tuesday, will be forced to absorb only a $2.7-million shortfall for 2012. The county, by contrast, is confronting a $72-million problem. At City Hall, no layoffs are anticipated as 10 positions — not employees — will disappear by attrition. Half the shortfall is expected to be made up with concessions extracted from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) at the bargaining table; the rest will be culled from various one-time funds strewn throughout City Hall’s many cookie jars.

In response to public complaints about the homeless, city administrators have proposed spending an additional $135,000 to hire a handful of outreach workers and one part-time cop to shuttle the chronically homeless to the appropriate social service or off the streets. Unlike last year, the downtown and Eastside libraries will not go dark for two weeks at Christmas time. As written, the proposed budget would return City Hall to the same number of workers as it had in 1999 with the same revenues it had in 2001. Except for police and fire, every department will see revenues go down. But even these two departments — which, combined, account for 54 percent of the general fund — will see a reduction in the number of personnel. In months past, some councilmembers have called for no less than 10 new cops to be hired. But no such demands were in evidence this Tuesday. Maybe they’ll be discussed later, as no doubt will urgent talks about City Hall’s mounting payment burden to retirees, now at 15 percent of the general fund.

Typically at the ceremonial first reading of the budget, some constituents show up ready to do battle. Last year, when there was a $9-million shortfall, it was people opposing cuts to animal control; the year before, when the shortfall was $6 million, it was the swimmers from Los Baños pool. This year, nobody showed up to complain. Between now and June 30, countless public hearings will be held — department by department — on the proposed budget.


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