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    Santa Paula: Red Flags from Budget and Council Meetings

    By Sheryl Hamlin

    June is a frantic month for governments with the end of the fiscal year approaching on June 30, 2019. Santa Paula held the second of its budget meetings on June 19, 2019 prior to the regularly scheduled council meeting at 6:30 pm.

    Budget Takeaways

    Park and Rec Department Director Greg Barnes indicated that the new restroom in Teague Park will be prefab at a cost of only $155,000, which is about half what the new restroom in Veterans Park cost last year. The restroom will have a foundation.

    Public Works Director Clete Saunier has requested $1.5 million for a preliminary engineering project to reduce chlorides at the wastewater plant, a project Public Works Director Saunier described as “conceptual” and still needing Limoneira acceptance. When questioned by Vice Mayor Araiza if there is conclusive evidence the multi-million dollar plan will meet the requirement, Director Saunier said “No”.

    Additionally property owners near the wastewater plant have complained about the landscaping which according to PW Director Saunier “was not even connected”.

    The Street Program consists of pavement slurry seal as well as funds from Measure T and SB1. A new idea is to borrow money from the California Infrastructure Bank (I-bank) but only withdrawing as needed like a Home Equity line of credit in order to minimize interest rates.

    When asked about recycled water, Director Saunier reluctantly said he would get a quotation for dual pipiing Harvard as part of the planned street improvement. In the event Santa Paula purifies its wastewater to landscaping standards, this dual piping would be used to ship water to East Area 1 parks.

    Finance Director Ramirez has been conducting classes on the data analysis capabilities of the new accounting system which she will use to provide management reporting. Other future items include paperless billing.

    City Manager Rock said that the FY 19/20 budget was “more difficult” than previously stated due to expected revenues which they had to back out. KB Homes is lowering prices in EA1. The budget has 180 homes generating plan check fees so it is important to watch this number. EA1 has sold 8 to date with the first move-in during August 2019. There is also the William Homes project. This is one time revenue which will end when the projects are completely built out, but the commercial part of EA1 may continue to generate income.

    Finance Director Ramirez noted that the sales tax projection decreased because one of the biggest contributors to the sales tax revenue filed a bankruptcy reorganization. The expected revenue from cannabis will be included in the mid-year report.

    Council Member Sobel brought up the issue of salaries covered by Measure T which is due to sunset in 18 years.

    Vice Mayor Araiza said that in all the years of his experience in government he has “never seen salary increases like we have seen this year”. He also said that we could not balance budget without Measure T. Essentially, Santa Paula would be bankrupt, he said.

    Council Meeting Takeaways

    City Attorney reported that the council is continuing the evaluation of City Manager Rock and will re-evaluate in six months.

    City Clerk Blanco received her CMC Designation. Mayor Garman noted this achievement.

    Vice Mayor Araiza said the Facilities Ad Hoc would meet at 2:30 Wednesday, but did not indicate the location. This subcommittee was established in the wake of the failed Rock Relocation plan.

    An Ad Hoc Committee was formed to monitor the situation at the Santa Paula Hospital. Vice Mayor Araiza and Council Member Juarez agreed to serve.

    The Five Year Pavement Management Plan presented by Tai Chau indicated 20 years of streets without maintenance. The budget now is $1.5 million annually.

    Cannabis moves sideways with a lengthy report from the City Attorney explaining current legal situation. Council discussed vaping and smoking marijuana in public, as well as complexities of monitoring deliveries.

    The City Council Goals were reviewed individually with streets and EA1 park master plan receiving high ratings. Rock expects the park Master Plan by 6/30/2020. The list was discussed one by one with City Manager Rock planning to re-issue the document. Note that City Manager Rock is planning more data to analyze relocation options.

    Council Member Crosswhite suggested the council send a letter in support of the proposal to lower the threshold to raise taxes on homeowners. This is a Sacramento Assembly plan to lower the requirement to pass new taxes to 55%. Council Member Crosswhite did not elaborate on her suggestion. This would apply to parcel taxes paid for by homeowners but approved by all voters.

    To watch the video(s) click here.

    For more information on author click sherylhamlin dot com

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