Budget issues force Arroyo Grande to restrict hours of operation, cut staff, increase fees

Posted at 6:00 PM, Jun 27, 2018

Budget issues are forcing the city of Arroyo Grande to tighten its belt by cutting back on hours of operation at City Hall.

Starting this week, City Hall will not be open to the public on Fridays.

Arroyo Grande City Manager Jim Bergman said a projected budget gap of $912,000 next year means the city must act now or face a $3.4 million shortfall over the next decade.

The city council adopted the budget at a meeting earlier this month.

Bergman said the budget issue stems from revenue sources that are not meeting projected amounts, as well as CalPERS pension plans that have cost the city money.

"It’s not a mismanagement issue," Bergman said.

To bridge the gap, 11 full-time positions are being cut. Bergman said nine employees were given incentives to take an early retirement and the other two were laid off.

Fees for programs through the Community Development Dept. and Recreation Dept., like rec sports fees, will increase as part of the budget plan.

Charlie Burnetti, an area resident and restaurant owner, said these changes are bad for business.

"It’s going to narrow the window that a local business has to access government when needed, and today we need to access government," Burnetti said. "Like me, I’m dropping off a license application, a catering application. We need access."

Another resident said taxes are going up while the number of services is staying the same and access declines.

Bergman said all changes are being made with the citizen experience in mind, arguing access will not suffer.

But many people disagreed, arguing that taxpayer-funded government has a duty to provide public access.