Local News

Mar 17, 2010 12:20 AM by Ariel Wesler

City leaders face $8 million budget gap

Santa Maria city leaders have a big budget battle ahead of them.

City councilmembers are meeting tonight to figure out how to close an $8 million budget gap. Cutting department budgets and more furlough days are among the possible options. While nothing is final, the cuts are concerning city workers.

It's an All-America City with an All-America problem. Santa maria city leaders are struggling with an $8 million dollar budget deficit, a deficit that has some employees on edge.

"I don't let it run my life. I just go to work and if they come and tell me that I've lost my job, hopefully that won't happen, but if it does, I'll just move on," said a city employee, who chose to remain anonymous.

City councilmembers are meeting to look at budget options either by raising fees or cutting costs.

"I know that times are tough and we've got to find ways to generate money," said Kit Remos of Santa Maria.

Some of the options include increasing planning fees, slashing department budgets by three, six or nine percent, adding more furlough days, and eliminating vacant full time and part time positions.

While the budget picture is complex, the math behind it is straight forward. The city is taking in around $49 million but its costs are around $57 million leaving it about $8 million in the red and wiping out a debt like that is the real challenge.

"Unlike the state, we can't come down and raid somebody else and that's what the state does to us," said Mayor Larry Lavagnino of Santa Maria.

And until cash-strapped California comes up with it's own budget, Santa Maria is tinkering with imaginary numbers to make ends meet.

"First of probably quite a few times that we're going to have to go through this. . .it's no fun," Lavagnino said.

Despite tough decisions on the horizon, the city must approve the budget by June 30th.

The mayor says rising costs and sinking revenue from sales and property tax caused the deficit.

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