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City council cuts 13 positions and $1 million from budget

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S.C. council cuts 13 positions, trimming $1 million from budget

<www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2003/January/22/local/stories/05local.htm>

January 22, 2003
By DAN WHITE
Sentinel staff writer

SANTA CRUZ -- The City Council voted Tuesday to chop more than $1 million from its budget, cutting 13 positions, and rolling back sidewalk maintenance and most funding for the city’s police review board.
At the Tuesday afternoon meeting, activist Sherry Conable said the cuts were a “done deal.” Mayor Emily Reilly said it might appear less of a “done deal” if the council debated this round of cuts for hours, “but we don’t have the luxury. ... This is not a manufactured crisis. It’s real, and it’s only going to get more difficult.”
Councilman Scott Kennedy, referring to the closings of Salz Tannery, Texas Instruments, Lipton and other manufacturing businesses in the city over the past 18 months, said the city must think hard about what kinds of industry are acceptable here.
Reilly said the council should explore fees added to phone bills to cover the $1.3 million the city spends on its 9-1-1 system, and consider increasing parking meter rates in the beach area to generate about $200,000 a year.
The city expects two to three layoffs after some job transfers and retirements, said assistant Martin Bernal. But he said future cuts could mean 100 axed positions and far more layoffs.
While the council took heat from activists for not touching police or fire service Tuesday, Bernal said public safety could still face serious cuts, and that no department is untouchable.
Finance director David Culver likened the situation to a “perfect storm.” He said a $1 million sales, hotel and utility tax shortfall, rising pension payments and Gov. Davis’ proposals to slash city funding could add up to a potential $8 million-a-year deficit within two years.
Among Tuesday’s cuts: removing $60,000 from the police review board’s $90,000 budget; cutting more than $700,000 in City Hall maintenance, park rangers and greenbelt planning programs; $195,000 from street and traffic signal programs, minor road repairs and sidewalk improvements; and another $31,000 from social services, which already had a $150,000 cut this year.
Paul Brindel of the Community Action Board, a nonprofit that works with the poor, cautioned that social services “already were in triage mode” even during better times.
There could be another $1 million slashed by July, and the need to cut more if the state removes $1.1 million in vehicle license fees from the city this year a take-away that could more than double next year.
Councilman Tim Fitzmaurice, responding to anger over “pink slips” sent to city employees this month, said the city had to be respectful and up front with people who could lose jobs, and tell them before it hit the papers. Slips warned of pending layoffs.
Scott Graham of Santa Cruz said the city should stop payments to the Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors Council and restore the police review board positions instead of “perpetrating corporate welfare.” That irked council members.
Councilman Mike Rotkin said every dollar slashed from visitor council promotions would represent a much larger cut to public services funded by tourism taxes.
Kennedy said people who fought to defeat Measure Q - an unsuccessful November measure that would have raised the hotel tax to fund tourism while removing the city’s $400,000 subsidy to the visitors council - should realize they worsened Santa Cruz’s budget crisis.
The council said it is restructuring the police review board, getting rid of two paid staffers and changing a system in which an auditor reviews cases and makes presentations to the council.
The board has long faced criticism that it is little more than a forum for activists to criticize police, and wields no power. Dave Rauen of the review board said the group is only weak because it was set up that way, “but, like the ACLU says, a weak citizens review process is better than none.”
Rotkin said he found it odd detractors of the board are now defending it vigorously. “I’ve heard people tell us for years the CPRB is a sham and now say it’s the end of the world if we get rid of it.”
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Contact Dan White at dwhite (at) santa-cruz.com

 
 


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