Santa Paula City Council passes budget while giving greenlight to 13% sales tax increase

By Debra Tash

The city council of Santa Paula passed its 2014-2015 fiscal budget tonight after they tacked on an amendment.  The city will lay off  five firefighters hired under a Safer Grant in September when the grant monies are exhausted.  Council Member Martin Hernandez proposed funding the firefighters’ salaries, each earning approximately $93,000 per year depending on their rank, out of the general fund for up to six months until the city can obtain a new grant.  That would take $233,970 out of the general fund which would then be replenished from $1.8 million Santa Paula projects to have in its reserves by year end.

Mayor Cook at first dissented: “We say one thing and we stick to it and we go six months and other six months. Are we giving them false hopes?” Then he added,  ”Let’s just hire them.” 

Santa Paula ranks as one of the poorest per capita cities in the County while it claims to be the fastest growing.  Yet, its 34 million dollar budget is in the black.  Our budget analyst went over the figures, you can review the full budget here: Proposed_FY14-15_Budget

He wrote: “They do claim it is balanced on a cash basis, which is good, unlike State of CA with 8++ billion cash deficit plus HUGE unfunded liabilities. They do have pretty healthy general fund revenue increase forecasts. How much is due to population increase, how much to inflation, how much to business expansion and how much to tax increases?”

Apparently what the City of Santa Paula is banking on is the build out of the East Area project by agri-giant Limoneira.  The project has been in the works since 2004 and got one step closer to breaking ground earlier this year:  https://citizensjournal.us/santa-paula-limoneira-gateway-project-closer-to-breaking-ground/

What our analyst also found in the budget:

Rapid expense increases; “ONGOING EXPENSES F/Y 14-15 F/Y 15-16 F/Y 16-17 F/Y 17-18 F/Y 18-19
Employee Sal. & Ben. Cost Increase 394,940 582,015 706,000 756,132 809,824 (all figures are for the above fiscal years)
CalPERS Rate Increase 387,768 576,134 764,501 952,867 1,141,233
Staffing SAFER-Grant 498,750 523,688 549,872 577,365 606,234
JPIA Increased Expenses 0 0 153,822 153,822 153,822
GF Contr. to Limoniera Police Grant 250,000 250,000 250,000 0 0
GF New Fire Station Staff Positions 0 0 129,800 129,800 129,800
GF Support of New East Area Park 0 0 66,500 66,500 66,500
TOTAL ONGOING EXPENSES 1,531,458 1,931,837 2,620,494 2,636,486 2,907,413
Ongoing Rev/Exp. Surplus/(Deficit) 773,994 1,163,085 616,987 1,108,918 1,149,229

Non-public safety staffing costs up 50% since FY11/12! But total city staff dropped from 179 in 2007 to 97 in 2012 forecast to increase to 113 by ’15.”

The budget passed 5 to 0 with the amendment to keep the five firefighters hired under the Safer Grant for at least six more months passed when the grant monies have run out. Their continued employment would be paid for from the general fund.

Also approved tonight was the ballot measure for a one cent increase in Santa Paula’s sales tax (which is a 13% increase from 7.5 cents to 8.5 cents ), which would make it the highest in the County.  The measure needs to get enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot now that the Council has hammered out the language.  50% of the monies would go to Police, 25% to Fire, and the other 25% to Street Repair. 
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Debra Tash is Editor-in-Chief of Citizensjournal.us, past president for Citizens Alliance for Property Rights, business executive and award-winning author, residing in Somis

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One Response to Santa Paula City Council passes budget while giving greenlight to 13% sales tax increase

  1. sheryl September 17, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Please read my docs posted at …

    http://stealthfashion.com/santapauladocs

    In particular: budget analysis, ad hoc water meeting and bonds

    Reply

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