The San Luis Obispo City Council met in a special session Tuesday to map the 2011-2013 city budget.
Lasting four hours, the meeting concluded with the postponement of debate on the current $4.4 million shortfall in the city general fund.
Instead of reallocating money in the budget (to be adopted June 21), the council spent much of the meeting identifying major city goals for the next two years.
Councilmember Kathy Smith stressed the necessity of a renewed focus on objectives.
“We are not putting our money in major city goals,” Smith said in the meeting.
The council said its four most important goals for the 2011-2013 financial plan are: economic development, preservation of essential services, fiscal health, neighborhood wellness and traffic congestion.
Primarily focused on economic development, the council vowed to create more head-of-household jobs.
“Most of the jobs we’re bringing into town are minimum wage,” Smith said. “We have coming (the) Perfumo Canyon development, which has Target, and we have Chinatown and Garden Street Terraces … none of which are going to be head of household jobs.”
Locals, too, remain skeptical of the city’s pledge to bolster business.
Longtime San Luis Obispo resident Teri Patterson voiced her discontent Tuesday during public comment.
“There aren’t any jobs,” Patterson said. “You can make (neighborhoods) beautiful and look like Disneyland, but you can’t draw people to a neighborhood where they can’t get a job.”
Patterson also commented on the spending in the budget.
“I’m very upset about the way my money’s been spent,” Patterson said. “I’m very upset about bringing in any more consultants.”
San Luis Obispo resident Leslie Halls, who commented following Patterson, also said taxpayer money should not be spent on financial consultants.
“I don’t think we need to hire more consultants and pay them $100,000 to tell us we need to do something,” Halls said.
Upon hearing these remarks, the council said it would reduce the number of paid consultants.
Mayor Jan Marx said the economic evaluations previously done by consultants could be assigned to people currently on city payroll.
“Let’s train the staff we have, and develop in house,” Marx said.
Another pressing budgetary issue is the renewal of Measure Y, the half-cent sales tax increase the city voted for in 2006.
Though Marx said she advocates the continuation of Measure Y, some disagreement on the matter exists within the council.
Councilmember Dan Carpenter said he does not think the council has properly spent funds accumulated from the added sales tax.
“We have to earn the right to have Measure Y renewed,” Carpenter said. “We don’t do it by spending money on consultants. If we need to take that $80,000, then let’s give it to neighborhood wellness, an area we bypass.”
Though there is no consensus with regard to Measure Y, the council said increased attention needs to be paid to neighborhood wellness.
The council, as well as San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deborah Linden, discussed possible amendments to code enforcement, parking enforcement and the Student Neighborhood Assistance Program (SNAP).
Controlling partying remains the most challenging aspect of neighborhood wellness efforts.
Carol Winger, the first speaker during public comment, described recent occurrences in her neighborhood near the Grand Avenue entrance to Cal Poly.
“A young man broke into my neighbors’ house while they were asleep,” Winger said. “He broke the chain link fence gate, then he tore the screen door off the house, then he tried to break a window. And when that failed, he went back to the front door, and he literally battered it down, and he entered their house. My neighbor and his wife are both in their 80s or maybe their 90s.”
The mayor said she shares Winger’s concern.
“I think that people vote with their feet and just move out of town if it’s too much hassle to live in some of these neighborhoods,” Marx said.
Marx subsequently requested the implementation of “neighborhood specialist programs” to go along with SNAP and parking enforcement.
Budget items not covered Tuesday will be addressed April 19 in a city council meeting beginning at 3 p.m.
A preliminary budget is scheduled to be revealed May 26.