Santa Paula FY 2016/2017 Budget

By Sheryl Hamlin

The City Council hosted a thinly publicized budget planning session at 5:00 pm on Monday, May 16, 2016 prior to the regularly scheduled council meeting at 6:30 pm.

Special Session: Budget Planning Session

The agenda and documents for this special meeting may be downloaded here. The last twelve pages include a list of priorities from the current fiscal year (ending June 30, 2016) identified in the last calendar year (2015). This is displayed on legal size paper, but it was distributed at the meeting. It is a summary of numerous topics discussed during the meetings and is a rapid way to view requests across departments and in time. The council discussed the document first.

Code Enforcement (Item 23 Potential FY 2016-2017): It was explained that Residential Code Enforcement is funded through an $85,000 CDBG (Community Development Block Grant), so the item for discussion is commercial Code Enforcement. It was noted that the Fire Chief has been meeting with downtown merchants and stakeholders about this topic.

Downtown Plan (Item 24 Current Fiscal Year): Planning Director said there were no monies in the current General Plan budget for a Downtown Plan. The General Plan consultant suggested an additional $15,000 for a few charrettes to add such a plan.

charrette

Additional discussion about tiered water and sewer rates brought a response from City Attorney Cotti, who reminded the council of the San Juan Capistrano decision, where such rates were disallowed, but Mr. Cotti said that classifications such as age and/or disability could be considered.

Council Member Gherardi questioned the across the board 1% raise in light of the fact the city had just hired a labor negotiator for $30,000. Mr. Cotti replied saying the 1% is for budgeting purposes only, not labor negotiations; however Council Member Gherardi said this was giving away tactical bargaining by broadcasting this amount.

Only about a dozen citizens attended the meeting with only three speakers.

Sheryl Hamlin asked if the city would open and maintain last years budget hotline for citizen input. A test email verified that this is still monitored.

budget_hotline

Connie Tushla presented eight (8) ideas for economic development.

  1. Maintain Main Street in pristine condition. Main Street is the first place investors see and is a symbol of who we are, she said. Now Main Street does not display pride of ownership with beat up signs and overflowing trash cans.
  2. Hire more Public Works staff for the large list of projects.
  3. Hire Code Enforcement person to enforce business fees.
  4. Hire fewer consultants and give monies to department to spend.
  5. Regularly publish list of streets and railroad crossings to be fixed and scheduled progress and completions.
  6. Hire an active Economic Development Person. She cited successful entrepreneur models from Garmans and Rabalais.
  7. Adams Canyon could become a resort like the Ojai Valley Inn which would bring tourism and potentially a tax base if upscale housing were included.
  8. Create a General Plan Design Ordinance for Main Street.

Nick Baciagalupo, fire engineer, shop steward and liaison to Ventura County Professional Fire Fighters Association, said the share of the pie  for the Fire Department is too small citing training and the shoe string budget. What are other options, he asked?

The study session ended with Council Member Gherardi asking if more items could be added to the Finance Directors list, to which Mayor Hernandez responded affirmatively.

Budget Discussion Continues on Regular Agenda

The agenda and packet may be downloaded here. Item 10D is a continuation of the FY 2016/2017 budget with a trial budget included at the end. Finance Director Easley presented a straw budget as follows and talked through possible iterations:

budget_first_cut

Although Director Easeleys prejection for the FY 2015/2016 years is a loss of $232,901, the FY 2016/2017 forecast is a positive $214,527 and could be better based on upcoming meetings with Limoneira about near-term projects and fee implications. Note empty lines for such fees on above chart. She noted that the city is just barely making the 120% required coverage for the Water Enterprise bonds, but has a better cushion in the Sewer Fund.

Council Member Gherardi suggested adding a program for paid summer interns to help collect unpaid fees. Assistant to the General Manager Elisabeth Paniagua said there is a non-paid program now which they would like to resurrect. Mayor Hernandez reiterated that this budget is a work-in-process.

Council Member Gherardi moved to continue this discussion asking for more details and cited the absence of Council Member Tovias, who should be present for such discussions.

There was discussion about departmental reorganization. City Manager Fontes suggested using a consultant for such a task. The importance of approving the budget by June 30, 2016 was reiterated. Two meetings are required to present and approve, which means a Special Meeting on June 27, 2016 will be needed in addition to the regularly scheduled meeting of June 6 and June 20.

Notes to Straw Budget

The Finance Director provided this list as to what positions had been included in the straw budget. Note that many items, such as the Economic Development position, had not been included in the straw budget.

budget_includes

In Public Comments Nick Baciagalupo spoke suggesting the council direct the Fire Chief to negotiate with the County Fire Department for a realistic quote to join into the county fire department.

Other than a mention in the Finance Directors handout, there was no council discussion about the potential sales tax. In Public Comments, Citizen Steve Snead reminded the audience that the Santa Paula Unified School District (SPUSD) had a $66 million bond measure on the November 2016 ballot which would add $8,000 to the cost of each homeowner over the life of the bond. He also reminded the audience of the = cent proposed VCTC (Ventura County Transit Commission) tax, in addition to a potential tax of 1% from Santa Paula. Succinctly, he said find another way.

To view the council video, click here.

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For more information about the author, visit sheryhamlin.com

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