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Budget cut talks include all departments in Santa Barbara with a gloomy economic forecast ahead

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Paying for services including those considered a priority in Santa Barbara is about to be more difficult.

 Santa Barbara City Councilmember Kristen Sneddon said at a recent budget meeting, "I just don't think the community is really looking to us to make cuts in public safety and I appreciate you coming forward to say what would happen. "
  That came after presentations from the police and fire departments.  They are not immune to the cuts the city is projecting to make ends meet in the coming year or two.    Economic times are uncertain, but already there is a forecast of lower revenues and higher expenses.

A year ago, the revenues were still exceeding the cost needs, but that's changing.
  Among the issues during the current budget meetings is finding enough police officers at a time when the department is short and actively recruiting.

Santa Barbara Police Chief Kelly Gordon said "we are really working hard and diligently. Everyone is 100 percent.  I don't have a crystal ball as to when this gets better.   I really don't ."

  As part of the recruiting process the police department will be telling applicants they will be seeing a brand new police station.  The $90-million dollar project is currently in the design phases.  It will be located on the corner of Santa Barbara street at Cota street.  

Law enforcement agencies around the state also have many openings, which makes the process even more competitive.

Gordon said, "what I need from council and what I need for us to be able to do is for us to be able to find a way to  recruit, hire and retain and it really quite frankly boils down to that."
  She would like to have at least 142 positions but even with that number, there would have to be an evaluation to see if services are being met.   Less than that number is already putting a strain on the department.
  The reality is,  the city's expenses are projected to exceed revenues in the next two budget years and cuts across the board have been recommended unless the economics get better.

Santa Barbara City Administrator Rebecca Bjork said the answer is,  "either though finding additional revenues which we currently don't have the ability to do or through   reductions  and expenditures.  So we have been trying to shift down to a more lean organization ."

Bjork also brought that up in the State of the City presentation recently while sitting side by side with her counterparts in Goleta and Carpinteria. They were also looking at costs that will squeeze their budgets and operating funds.
  For the fire department, one way to cover some costs is to make sure it gets fully funded when our firefighters are on a mutual aid call out with other departments.
  It's part of the most effective firefighting system in place,  but it comes with a shared budget back and forth.

  Finance  talks this week have also revealed there could be new fees in many areas including using the city pool for recreational or fitness swimming,  play pickleball or if you want to use a park for a special event.        Cuts to the library could impact staffing and hours at a time when there's are encouraging new plans ahead with a new plaza and special events.

  Santa Barbara City  Councilmember Eric Friedman said, "without the additional revenue that's coming in any additional revenue that comes  those cuts will have to come from somewhere."

Article Topic Follows: Local Politics

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


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