Council also reviews rate increases for solid waste services
The Santa Barbara City Council adopted the operating and capital budget for fiscal year 2021 Tuesday, forgoing a salary increase to mitigate the significant deficit the city faces due to COVID-19’s impacts.
In a “uniquely challenging year” for city budget staff, the budget unanimously approved by the council reflects efforts to mitigate the citywide revenue losses for FY2021 of $24 million.
“This represented about $6.5 million in department reductions to the general fund as well as some labor concessions, some reductions to capital and then use of some reserves as well,” said Interim Finance Director Jennifer Tomaszewski.
Finance Committee amendments include general fund revenue assumptions, proposed general fund and enterprise fund fee changes.
The approved changes also include the budget reduction plans; staff adjustments, including $35,000 for the Juneteenth celebration; $1.15 million in Measure C funding for the library plaza and a reduction in the pavement project by the matching amount; $25,000 for the Chamber of Commerce; and $50,000 for the Point in Time Count, according to Ms. Tomaszewski.
“In addition to the monetary items approved with the budget, there were also several items approved as directives for staff going into next year. There were six items council gave direction to bring back quarterly status updates through the Finance Committee,” said Ms. Tomaszewski.
One of the directives was for outside evaluation of plans for the new $80 million police station and how resources are being spent.
Council also approved moving parking enforcement from the police department to public works, directed staff to identify funding options for a minimum of four positions related to social work, mental health and/or code enforcement, and directed staff to work with the county on a co-response program. Council also directed staff to reevaluate the special events permitting process managed by the police department and to work with Santa Barbara’s black community on a community center.
While the city council cannot volunteer for pay cuts due to language in the city charter, each member of the council agreed to forego an escalation in pay for FY2021 that is tied to each district’s median income and pledged to reinvest the funds into the city.
Also on Tuesday, the council held a public hearing regarding proposed solid waste rate increase of 6.9% for FY2021.
“Our Solid Waste Fund reserves have been greatly depleted by covering a rate increase in the Fiscal Year 2018. With the onset of the pandemic, our commercial service reduction has been dramatic and the associated revenues. Right now we’re seeing anywhere from a 15% to 20% reduction in those revenues,” said Environmental Services Manager Rene Eyerly.
The increases are also meant to adjust for the increase to tipping fees in connection with the development of new solid regional waste processing facilities at the Tajiguas landfill and increasing compensation to the city’s contracted hauler by a CPI factor, pursuant to a franchise agreement.
An increase of 4.7% is proposed to all customer classes to cover the increases in tipping fees charged by the county.
2.2% of the proposed rate increase would go toward compensating MarBorg Industries for waste collection.
“Obviously we would prefer to delay a rate increase if we could, but we have clear contractual obligations to MarBorg and the county,” said Ms. Eyerly.
The city is transitioning the processing of commercial recyclables from the MarBorg facility at David Love to a Resource Recovery Center, and the tipping fee is now applied to this tonnage as well, according to Ms. Eyerly.
The goal of the Resource Center is to significantly increase the diversion of trash from landfill disposal, extending the life of the landfill and providing a long-term waste management solution for the South Coast.
“It’s the largest capital public works project in county history. It’s a state-of-the-art facility, and it will help us achieve our up to 85% diversion,” said Ms. Eyerly.
To meet revenue requirements, the county tipping fees for garbage and recycling have increased above the rate of inflation for the last several years.
The city used Solid Waste Fund reserves to mitigate the rate increase in FY2018. For FY2019, the city implemented a 12% rate increase, with a 16% rate increase implemented in FY2020. However, rate increases are now necessary to fund the construction of the center as the reserves are depleted.
For small residential customers, the proposed rate increase would be $48.90 to $52.37 for one-unit customers and $86.70 to $92.85 for two- to four-unit cart and can service. For five- or more unit residential customers, cart and can service fees would increase from $348.16 to $368.53, and dumpster service fees would rise 5.85% to $485.94.
The Resource Center is scheduled to open early next year.
“I know we did receive some letters of protest,” said Mayor Cathy Murillo. “I’m hoping that people will understand that the new facility reduces greenhouse gas emotions, helps us process our discards and our waste, creates energy and that we’re carrying out an environmental project and processing waste and that unfortunately we will have an increase in our rates.”
Also, the council unanimously passed a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis and condemning police brutality crafted by city staff and Healing Justice Santa Barbara.
The resolution is part of the council’s response to the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, and the protests that spread to many cities across the nation condemning and denouncing his death and similar unjustified killings.
At the June 2 meeting, many members of the public voiced a need for “all members of our community feel a part of Santa Barbara and feel protected, listened to, and served by their public servants,” according to a city staff report.
The resolution indicted everything from slavery and Jim Crow laws to the modern criminal justice system. It also named others fatally shot by officers around the country including Meagan Hockaday, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade.
“We are haunted, too, by the knowledge that these are not isolated events in our country. The number of names and similar experiences is unconscionably long, and an undeniable part of the history of this nation,” read the resolution.
In addition to condemning police brutality and declaring racism a public health emergency, the measure resolved to urge the Santa Barbara Police Department to “continue to commit to fair and impartial policing policies, continue to develop and implement comprehensive programs to ensure equitable justice policing practices at all levels of the agency”.
Council also directed the City Attorney’s Office to return on July 21 with a presentation on options for establishing an independent civilian police oversight system.