The dust is settling after the Lompoc City Council voted on a budget with more than $3 million worth of cuts that include city staff positions and overtime for firefighters.
The city is offering those whose jobs are on the chopping block the opportunity to move into other open positions that have been budgeted for. But this budget goes into effect July 1, meaning those who choose not to change roles could be out of a job in less than a week.
Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne has a lot on her mind after the city council passed a budget Monday night with not only millions of dollars worth of cuts but also a budget deficit.
Osborne was the one dissenting vote.
“I understand the motivation of the other council members. Unfortunately, I think we are failing our community by not being proactive. I believe we could’ve presented a truly balanced budget and done a better job of providing hope for our community,” Osborne said.
The cuts to public safety include $700,000 of overtime for the fire department, loss of a battalion chief and the continued freeze on three positions in the police department.
Lompoc’s Police Chief Joseph Mariani says the community will see very few changes from the department once the budget goes into effect. They’re still looking to hire officers but with limited funds, Chief Mariani says they’re struggling to attract people to the department.
“Local agencies are very competitive. They’re offering great incentives for officers to come work for them – not only an increase in pay but a signing bonus of a substantial amount and that poses a challenge for me. I’ve lost five officers both because of retirement and lateral (transfers) in the last six weeks,” Mariani explained.
Osborne and many other city officials are trying to remain positive and hope the momentum continues for a sales tax measure.
Right now, two potential taxes are on the table. One is a general sales tax that would mostly fund public safety, similar to Santa Maria’s Measure U.
The other is a one percent special sales tax proposed by Council Member Dirk Starbuck. That money would mostly go toward the CALPERS pension that has tied up the city’s budget.
“I think we need to support a tax that is responsible, that we are able to allocate the funds for what we need it for. Public safety is the number one thing that the public has come forward and said is important to them,” said City Council Member Gilda Cordova.
Lompoc Fire Battalion Chief Brian Federmann says the cuts threaten their ability to meet the service needs of the community.