Less than a week after saying that he felt his concerns regarding Lompoc’s 2017-19 biennial draft budget were going unheard, Lompoc City Councilman Jim Mosby on Tuesday night changed the course of the budget conversation.
Mosby, who had been advocating for shrinking city government costs over the past two-plus months of the council’s budget talks, presented his fellow council members, city administrators and members of the public with a 12-point list of things that he wanted to see assessed by city staff. The list included reshuffling, reducing or eliminating certain staff positions, returning some executive salaries back to 2014 levels, reducing some departmental budgets to 2015 levels, and eliminating the economic development division, which is a faction of the economic development department, altogether.
After another extended discussion, which included a break to allow City Manager Patrick Wiemiller to consult with City Attorney Joe Pannone on some of the specifics of Mosby's requests, the council ultimately voted 3-2 to have staff come back with the assessments requested by Mosby.
Mayor Bob Lingl and Jenelle Osborne voted against the motion. Lingl and Osborne also provided the lone "yes" votes on a separate ultimately-failed motion made by Osborne to accept the budget recommended by Wiemiller at the July 12 special budget session.
Mosby described the city as being in a time of “crisis” and suggested that his request list was a “form of tightening the belt.”
“This is about moving forward in a strong, fiscal manner,” he said.
“I think this has an opportunity to come back with some numbers to make us solid; numbers that will keep us solid for a good 10 years,” he later added.
Mosby’s request came on the heels of the council receiving its latest revised recommendation from Wiemiller at the July 12 special session. Wiemiller, who said he was attempting to follow the direction of the council to cut costs within the city, recommended a budget that included voluntary furloughs for staff, the elimination of funding for private events and festivals, and closing City Hall every other Friday, among other slashes.
Wiemiller said at that July 12 meeting that he continued to believe that moving forward with three tax measures on the 2018 ballot — a half-cent sales tax, a 2-percent increase in hotel bed taxes and a 6 percent tax on utilities — was in the best interest of the city, but he suggested then that perhaps the council consider only moving forward with a 1 cent sales tax.
Mosby said his plan should provide a guide for the city to move forward without any new taxes and without cutting services that members of the community have come to expect.
“I feel there are other opportunities that we can investigate and look into,” he said.
During the council discussion, Osborne provided the only vocal opposition to Mosby’s suggestions.
Among the issues she raised was that she felt Mosby was overstepping his bounds by looking to influence philosophy rather than policy, and she also raised concern with Mosby relating the city to a corporation when he described making cuts.
“Government is not a business,” she said. “The core principle of a business is to maximize the profit. ... The portent of government is to maximize services distributed to our community and our citizens.”
She said she felt like the tax measures provide a way to allow the community to decide, via the voting booth, whether it wants to maintain certain services.
After a three-minute break that was called to allow for Wiemiller and Pannone to discuss if some of Mosby’s suggestions were even possible to assess with labor contracts, Wiemiller went down each of the 12 items for clarification.
The vote was taken after that extended rundown.
Among the other information requested in Mosby’s list was assessments on the effects of eliminating the new positions described in the 2015-17 budget, and he asked city staff to provide the cost savings of reducing library funding to 2015-17 budget level, contracting out the building department like other area cities have done and reducing the parks and code enforcement budgets to the 2015-17 levels.
The meeting was the ninth time the council has discussed the budget since it was initially introduced May 2. The council voted last month to extend its deadline to adopt a budget from June 30 to Aug. 31.
With no special budget-only meetings currently scheduled, the council is set to return to its budget deliberations at its next regular meeting on Aug. 1.
In other action Tuesday, the council voted to continue moving forward with annexation of the so-called Bailey Avenue Corridor west of the city.
The council was also scheduled to discuss potentially terminating its Memorandum of Understanding that was agreed upon by the city and the Lompoc Valley Parks, Recreation, and Pool Foundation for the proposed Lompoc Valley Motorsports Park project, but that item was pulled from the agenda for later discussion. Three other items were similarly pulled, including two related to the city’s code enforcement policy, and a request from the Lompoc Cemetery District for an agreement for water utility services.
Lingl said that the code enforcement issues were pulled for time reasons, due to the anticipated lengthy discussions for the other items on the agenda, but no explanation was given regarding the motorsports and cemetery topics. Also, no date was established for when those items will return.