SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The Santa Maria City Council approved the proposed budget, 4-1 with Soto dissenting, adding recommendations regarding the pool, library and Mayor's Task Force for Youth Safety.
Tuesday's budget meeting drew protests from three separate groups, as council members debated how the city would balance its budget after losing millions from the coronavirus pandemic.
There were a couple of hot topics on the agenda. The first was when to reopen the Paul Nelson swimming pool, which drew one group of protesters, many of whom were members of the swim team.
"With swimming, you really pretty much need to be swimming every day. Basically, a week break will set you back months," said Ryen Renee Jennings, a 17-year-old member of the swim team.
The council is looking into how to open the pool as soon as possible, before proposed, by reallocating the general fund. They were originally looking at keeping the pool closed at least through the end of the year, which would save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"Having a year without swimming, especially with the quarantine and everything, it will set us back years," said Jennings.
Also up for debate was police and public safety funding, which drew Black Lives Matter protesters in favor of defunding the police, and counter protesters.
"We respect a lot of the police officers... but they're contributing to a system that could lead to brutality against minorities," said Ella Hood, a Santa Maria resident.
David Kingsly, a pastor, said he wanted to keep police funded. "My father was a policeman for 35 years and I just believe in the rule of law. And it's absurd to think that we don't want police in this world," he said.
Council members talked at length about the use of Measure U, which was voted on to fund first responders.
Looking at other budget items, council members discussed keeping the library closed through September to save money. Along with the pool, they are looking at how to reopen the library as soon as possible using the general fund.
In total, they are looking at reallocating $558,000 from general fund capital projects towards the library, pool and Mayor's Task Force for Youth Safety. They did not set a timeline for reopening.