052021 City Council Special Meeting

Lompoc City Manager Jim Throop on Thursday explained to the City Council that since new regulations governing American Rescue Plan Act relief funds have been added, city staff must review the document before allocating $13.19 million in community improvement funds.

The Lompoc City Council on Thursday began its initial review of the 2021-23 budget, although community members did not receive an update on the proposed allocation of federal COVID-19 relief funds due to an unexpected change in rules and regulations. 

"The (Department of the Treasury) says we can only spend it in certain categories," City Manager Jim Throop explained to the council at the special meeting Thursday. "The issue is that there is a number of different rules and regulations that weren't there when we first put the survey out."

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which President Joe Biden signed into law this year, are part of a national $1.9 trillion package intended to help soften the economic impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lompoc qualified for $13.19 million in community improvement funds, and according to Throop, has until 2023 to utilize them after receiving a payout in two lump sums. 

Residents were invited to weigh in on the topic of spending via an online survey between late April and mid-May. They were asked to select areas they deemed to be the greatest priority, including the city's police and fire departments, public works, library, and parks and recreation. Nearly 800 participants took the survey, according to Throop. 

Due to the change in regulations, Throop suggested the council delay the discussion until June so staff can carefully review the more-than-150-page document. He said the city could get audited in the future and if the federal funds are not spent as outlined, the city would be required to pay back the funds. 

Throop said funds cannot be used to pay down the city's high pension debt or certain infrastructure, among other limitations. 

Mayor Jenelle Osborne agreed to delay the discussion until June 2 or 3, based on availability of personnel and resources. A date for the special meeting will be solidified in the coming days.

"I know this was supposed to be a combined presentation but because of all of the new rules we learned just last week, and because of some of those rules impacting our 'wish list' put together ahead of knowing these rules," Osborne explained, "… and since we have a June 3 meeting proposed, my proposal is that we set aside the ARPA discussion until that event so we can finish providing any budget direction."

Other business

The head of each city department reported on results from the last budget cycle and provided a budget analysis with goals and needs for the upcoming budget cycle.

— Dean Albro, management services director, presented a preliminary overview of the city's 2021-23 budget and gave council members a report for their review and approval.

— A second budget session is slated for June 2 or 3, possibly concurrent to a follow-up rescue plan special meeting.

— A hearing and adoption session for the 2021-23 budget is scheduled for June 15. 

Lisa André covers lifestyles and local news for Santa Ynez Valley News and Lompoc Record.