062617 Lompoc Council 04.jpg (copy)

In this June 26, 2017, file photo, Lompoc City Council members Jim Mosby, Dirk Starbuck, Mayor Bob Lingl, Jenelle Osborne and Victor Vega, from left, look at a screen showing city budget numbers. The group will reconvene Wednesday to continue budget talks.

Len Wood, Staff

The Lompoc City Council will resume its budget talks a day earlier than anticipated.

The body will meet for its eighth round of discussions of the 2017-19 biennial budget at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the council chambers at Lompoc City Hall, 100 Civic Center Plaza. The gathering will be the fourth budget-only special meeting since the draft budget was introduced on May 2.

The date for this upcoming meeting was initially set at the June 26 special meeting, which was the most recent budget session, for Thursday. A Planning Commission meeting that had been scheduled for July 12 was canceled, however, and the council decided to move the budget meeting to that earlier date, according to city staff.

In addition to taking another dive into the particulars of the budget on Wednesday, the council is also expected to vote on whether to approve an agreement with Santa Barbara County for animal control services that will last through June 30, 2018.

The council had previously voted 3-2 on June 20 to renew the animal services agreement with the county, which costs the city about $25,000 per month, for just one month and to have city staff explore outside options when that contract expires.

That decision was roundly criticized at the June 26 meeting by several local animal service professionals and advocates. That backlash led the council to decide to have the issue brought back for another vote.

While most municipal budgets had a June 30 deadline for adoption, the Lompoc City Council voted on June 8 to extend its deadline to Aug. 31. 

The group still has several issues to explore.

Councilman Jim Mosby has asked city staff to come back with recommendations for across-the-board cuts at City Hall, while Councilwoman Jenelle Osborne has asked city leaders to look into hiring freezes and voluntary furloughs, among other council-led direction.

Those were among several cost-saving or revenue-generating ideas that have been brought forth during the extended budget talks, which began May 2 with City Manager Patrick Wiemiller informing the council that the city has an unfunded liability of about $70 million to the California Public Employees' Retirement System, or CalPERS.

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Also still on the table for discussion, after being killed and then revived, are the potential three new taxes that Wiemiller first proposed May 2. Wiemiller has repeatedly recommended that the council allow the taxes — a half-cent sales tax, a 2-percent increase in hotel bed taxes and a 6 percent tax on utilities — to be placed on the November 2018 ballot.

The only member of the council who has seemed in full support of the tax measures, at least as presented, has been Mayor Bob Lingl.

Mosby and Councilman Victor Vega, on the other hand, have been the only two members steadfastly against the tax proposal. They have repeatedly suggested that the city look at other ways to bring in funds and/or cut down costs.

If the council is unable to reach agreement and adopt a budget Wednesday, it will have another chance to do so at its next regular meeting July 18. The council could also decide on either Wednesday or July 18 to schedule another special budget session.

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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