After deciding they needed more time to review new information provided by city staff, the members of the Lompoc City Council voted Tuesday night to extend its budget deadline for the second time this summer, and to also schedule another special meeting.
City Manager Patrick Wiemiller began Tuesday night’s discussion of the 2017-19 biennial budget by providing the council members with copies of his 26-page response to a list of items he was given on July 18 and directed by the council to analyze. The responses were passed to the council members — copies were also made available for those in attendance — just ahead of the discussion, which led the governing body to take a circuitous route to extending the discussion yet again.
A special meeting had been planned to take place immediately after Tuesday night’s regular meeting. The reason for the double meeting was so that the council could legally — following the rules of the state’s Ralph M. Brown, or open meetings, act — vote Tuesday night to adopt a resolution extending the budget deadline.
With the council seemingly in agreement that it wished to once again push out the deadline after getting the responses from Wiemiller, Mayor Bob Lingl called the regular meeting to a recess, opened the special meeting, and the group voted 4-1 to adopt a resolution extending the budget deadline to Sept. 30. The lone vote of dissent came from Councilwoman Jenelle Osborne, who didn't say why she voted against it.
The council then went back to the regular meeting and voted unanimously to schedule a special budget-only meeting for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 22, in the council chambers at City Hall. The motion to schedule the special session was first made by Councilman Victor Vega.
“I think it’s difficult to absorb any of this (after) getting the staff report seconds before the item comes up,” Councilman Jim Mosby, who authored the 12-point list that led to the in-depth response packet, said of Tuesday night’s budget hearing. “It makes it very difficult.”
The report presented by Wiemiller on Tuesday was in direct response to the 12-point list put forward July 18 by Mosby, who asked for an analysis of each of the items. The list was meant to find ways to cut costs within the city without cutting services, Mosby said. The council voted 3-2 — with support from Mosby, Vega and Dirk Starbuck — to direct Wiemiller to adhere to Mosby’s request.
Wiemiller’s responses, which were posted Wednesday on the city’s website at www.cityoflompoc.com, included direct answers to questions about cost savings related to eliminating jobs, but it also warned in some cases that there could be negative aftereffects to such moves.
For instance, Wiemiller’s report noted that the city would save $714,631 by eliminating four new administrative and community development positions that were added in the 2015-17 budget. These positions include an administrative analyst, public information officer, development program specialist and associate planner.
The report went on to detail many ways in which the elimination of the administrative analyst, for one, could lead to an elimination of the city's ability to handle matters "that would increase overall efficiencies and effectiveness of city programs and services."
Another response focused on Mosby’s request for the cost savings that would be seen by reducing library funding to 2015-17 budget levels. Wiemiller noted in his response that such a move would save $207,674, but he went on again to detail the many service improvements that have been made at the library since 2015.
Additionally, library staff provided a response in which they called the facility a “a civic asset, a benefit to the public, (and) an important nonprofit that 200,000 people a year rely on in Lompoc.
“Cutting library funding affects the quality of life for people that may be struggling to pay their utilities and other bills, and provides free activities and resources to support them and their families,” the response continued.
Another of Mosby’s requests was to see the savings that would be achieved by returning city administers to their 2014 salaries with the same increases that are given to the city’s union workers.
Wiemiller’s response noted that his own salary is currently about $41,000 less than it would be under those stipulations, and the assistant city manager’s salary is also currently lower by about $4,000. Four other positions were listed as currently lower than they would be with union raises.
The only department head whose salary is higher than it would’ve been with union increases, according to city staff, is the chief of police. The difference between the police chief’s salary and what it would’ve been with union raises is just $587 per year, according to the response report.
Overall, the city response reported that the department heads currently make $128,052 less in salaries and benefits than they would have received if they were union employees.
Mosby said he appreciated the thoroughness of the staff report, and added that he felt like he would be able to provide more meaningful discussion at next week’s meeting. Vega and Starbuck similarly said they would appreciate a week to "absorb" the responses before continuing the budget deliberations.
Tuesday's move was the second time the council has voted to extend its budget deadline, which was initially June 30, the state standard. The council voted on June 8 to extend it to Aug. 31.
The Aug. 22 special session for the budget will mark the fifth such special meeting since the draft budget was first presented to the council on May 2.
The council has another special session for marijuana-related issues scheduled for Aug. 29.
The next regular meeting of the Lompoc City Council is set for Sept. 5.