The Lompoc City Council continues to struggle with making tough choices in passing a new, two-year budget.
Some in the community say the city needs to start thinking about legal marijuana as a source of tax revenue to fill the growing budget gap.
The City Council is confronted with a budget deficit of more than one million dollars, new demands from the state retirement system in meeting its $70 million pension liability obligations while trying to maintain current levels of city services.
Thursday night’s special hearing on the budget gave city residents another chance to voice their concerns about the budget dilemma and the best way to deal with it.
“I need you to pass a motion that we’re not going to declare bankruptcy”, said former mayor John Linn to the City Council Thursday night, ” it was a term of discussion and I don’t think anyone who uttered the word had any idea the impact that was going to have, simply say bankruptcy is not an option, we’re going to find a solution, because that’s what we’re here to do, please do that, help our community take away the fear and then let’s just go forth and fix it as I know we will.”
The City Council is considering cuts in city services, including police and fire protection, and staffing levels along with proposed increases in local taxes, sales tax, bed tax and utilities user tax, that would go to city voters on the November 2018 ballot.
“Most of us would prefer not to have any tax increases”, one woman told the council Thursday night, “however looking at the condition of the budget and how it may impact us in the future, it seems to me we need to find a revenue stream that will help us in closing this gap.”
“You need to standup and have the backbone to support what the city manager has proposed and that’s the three taxes and give the people a chance to vote on that”, said local resident Justin Rughe, “and tell the people if this doesn’t go through, then here is what’s going to happen, here are the options.”
“I’m just concerned what is your alternative if the tax (increases) does not go through, what is your plan B?”, said local resident George Bedford, “if you don’t have a Plan B, then I think we ought to close this place down and move to Guadalupe and help those folks out.”
Others who spoke Thursday night urged the City Council to embrace legal marijuana with the passage of Proposition 64 by California and Lompoc voters last November.
“I think the city needs to consider at least looking into the potential of what the tax revenue can do for the city”, said Prop 64 advocate Joe Garcia, “I think its your responsibility and the will of voters.”
“There is resounding evidence that with legalization and regulation, the cities can license and tax cannabis to help shore up their sagging revenues and balance their budgets without cuts”, said another local resident.
The next public hearing on the budget is scheduled for June 26.
The City Council voted Thursday night to extend the current budget review period to the end of August to allow for more discussion.