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Lompoc seeks public input to fix dismal finances

Finances are tight in Lompoc. City officials are looking for ways to reduce spending and create more revenue –which may include bringing in a Hollywood studio, partnering up with SpaceX founder Elon Musk, or implementing new taxes.

“We have a $5 million deficit that we’re looking at,” explained Lompoc City Manager, Jim Throop.

That’s due to a couple of different things, like raises to CalPERS, the state’s employee pension program.

“We gave out some well-deserved raises, about $2 million,” Councilman Jim Mosby said.

The riverbed clean up is costing the city a pretty penny, too. Throop said it’s adding up to $600,000 thus far.

“Blows my mind as it’s almost 800,000 pounds of trash that has been removed and it’s not done yet,” said Throop.

Property tax losses are also hurting Lompoc’s finances.

“We just lost our largest apartment complex, [it] was converted to low-income housing,” said Throop.

That means the city won’t collect taxes on it. Thirty percent of housing in Lompoc is low-income housing.

“We’re by far the largest provider of low-income housing in the whole county,” said Throop. By comparison, low-income housing in other Santa Barbara County cities makes up about 2%-5%.

City officials are looking to fix Lompoc’s budget any way they can.

“We’ve already shaved off a number of positions that are vacant,” Throop said. While vacant positions have been eliminated, for the time being, Throop explained no city employees will lose their jobs.

The City Manager said he’s also thought about giving Hollywood a call. Lompoc is $200,000 short on the cost of tearing down an old pool building in front of City Hall.

“[We could offer] it up to a movie studio and say come in, you can burn it, you can blow it up, do whatever you want and pay us $200,000 and you can have it. We’ll finish up the job of cleaning up afterward.”

Throop said the city has also been meaning to partner up with Vandenberg Airforce Base and SpaceX founder, Elon Musk.

“When I met with the colonel at the base, they had one rocket that was built in Huntsville, Alabama put on a barge all the way through the Panama Canal, brought it all the way up the coast when we’re literally by the base. Why can’t we have some tech place here and the industrial site to build it?”

Throop added the city is in talks with the county about expanding its boundaries to have space for industrial buildings, though it’s “a long-term goal”.

Adding a new sales tax is also being considered. However, Councilman Mosby said they need to cut back.

“We did bring in a million dollars of new revenue last year — the problem is we spend more than that.”

The last piece of the puzzle is residents — Lompoc is encouraging public input to come up with the best solutions.

The city will allow people to share their opinions via their website. A series of community forums will be hosted in 2019, as well.

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