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Lompoc eyes $3 million in cuts as leaders look to pass a balanced budget

Posted at 6:14 PM, May 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-29 22:09:18-04

The City of Lompoc is one step closer to passing a budget.

The city council voted 3-2 Tuesday night in favor of a budget that included more than $3 million worth of cuts.

Even with all of those cuts, the city would still be in a deficit and in need of other revenue streams to prevent the deficit from growing. However, new revenue streams could take longer to open up with less city staff to work on them.

It’s a reality check that’s hard to cash.

“If you’re paying attention and watching council meetings and reading the papers I can see that it’s not a positive for the community,” said Amber Wilson, President and CEO of the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce.

On Tuesday, Lompoc city leaders decided to move forward with what they call “Option Four,” a budget that includes continuing to freeze positions at the police department, cutting $700,000 of overtime for the fire department, losing a battalion chief and cutting parts of city staff like the Planning Department and Code Enforcement.

“If (community members) came in with a new plan to go do a new subdivision or put up a building or whatnot, it will take longer for the planning department to get through it given there’s only two people,” explained Lompoc City Manager Jim Throop.

That’s especially worrisome for organizations like the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce, which stands to lose $100,000 or 43% of its budget with the proposed cuts.

“With new businesses coming to town, those services need to be available and those positions need to be fully staffed and with those cut, it’s going to bog up that process and make it more challenging for businesses to get their doors open,” Wilson said.

With the potential elimination of code enforcement positions, that means there would be less oversight once new or existing businesses open up shop.

“They go through to make sure everyone is following the proper rules and it’s not to be mean, it’s to make sure there’s public safety out there,” Throop said.

At the fire department, Battalion Chief Brian Federmann says they have minimum staffing requirements and have to use overtime when people call out sick or are injured.

He believes cutting overtime would lead to a change in response times because they wouldn’t have enough staff for a rescue unit.

“Our concern is that we won’t be able to meet call demands of the community, our response times will be significantly altered, and when we implemented that rescue we were meeting the OSHA two-in and two-out requirement for structure fires and that vehicle serves as that component and when that vehicle is not going to be here, it jeopardizes our ability to meet the OSHA standard and mandate and compromises the safety of our personnel,” Federmann explained.

Federmann says the elimination of a battalion chief would force their fire marshal to go back to working on fire suppression, giving them less time to work on permitting and inspections.

The chamber is hoping for a sales tax measure to be passed.

“I think it’s up to council to listen to the community and to make the right choice and I think that’s giving them opportunity to vote,” Wilson said.

There are still at least two meetings before anything is finalized. Throop says they hope to have the budget complete by June 30 and prepared for the next fiscal year, otherwise they’ll have to keep passing resolutions to continue discussions.