Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 26th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Profit Shares

news2 citybudgFive things we’ve learned from city budget meetings

It’s budget season again, and things in Santa Cruz’s city government are looking up—thanks, partly, to a rebounding economy and the recently increased transient occupancy taxes. Santa Cruz also got its bond rating upgraded to AA+, putting the city’s credit on an equal footing with the nation’s.

The trick this month, though, will be figuring out the best way to divvy up this $216 million pie we call the proposed city budget—although council and city staff do see eye-to-eye in most places. With all that in mind, we take a look at the budget discussions across five different departments in meetings so far.

Playing bridge

Public Works, the city’s most expensive department, has a few significant infrastructure plans this year—including an update for Ocean Street traffic equipment to reduce wait times, and a roundabout where the wharf meets Beach Street. The discussion over the department’s proposed $56 million budget hasn’t been without speed bumps, though.

Alternative transportation activists want to put brakes on a $500,000 plan to study a supposedly much-needed Highway 1 bridge replacement over the San Lorenzo River that CalTrans had originally offered to fund. CalTrans and the Regional Transportation Commission have since backed away from earlier comments; they now say the 58-year-old bridge actually isn’t so unsafe after all. Councilmembers Don Lane and Micah Posner tried to direct staff to take the bridge study out of the budget, but their motion didn’t go anywhere with the other councilmembers. Public Works Director Mark Dettle, who worries about the bridge’s safety, said CalTrans doesn’t take into account certain concerns, like flood dangers posed by the current bridge.

Full force

 After hiring 16 police officers last year, the cops are fully staffed—with 94 officers—for the first time in recent memory. Chief Kevin Vogel, who’s been given authority to over-hire, is looking to add a few more officers to create a buffer in the case of future retirements. The police also came up in discussions over the new gate at the Homeless Services Center, and the county’s Downtown Accountability Program, to which the city plans to kick $200,000. That should be a start for what could be a popular, if expensive, fix for the problem of chronic offenders downtown. Even some of the program’s most ardent supporters, including former Mayor Mike Rotkin, say it might run a bigger tab if the city wants to chip in for housing—an important part of keeping offenders off the streets.

Circuit board

Libraries everywhere are transitioning into becoming high-tech community gathering places, rather than fuddy-duddy warehouses for books. Libraries director Teresa Landers says the county’s system—which gets a tiny fraction of its budget from the city, to the tune of a proposed $1.3 million this upcoming year—will be introducing either tablets or Chromebooks soon.

Meanwhile, library administrators are planning for a likely ballot initiative in June 2015, and weighing whether to restructure—which would put the board in the hands of city managers, in the hopes of creating greater efficiency—or leave it in the hands of elected officials.

Empty buckets

When the city backburnered plans for a desalination plant last year, the water department’s expenses didn’t disappear overnight. The department now has to incentivize conservation, after a dry winter in which we received just 1/25 of an inch of rain in the month of January. After rolling out water rationing this month, the city will begin offering water school classes for users who go over their allotted limit, but want to avoid charges.

Water director Rosemary Menard is also hoping to start a new online metering system, to send data on how much water households are using back to the plant (or to a user’s smartphone) in real time. The department, which maintains 300 miles of pipes, has less than half the fund balance it did three years ago—largely due to upgrades and repairs, including a $26 million replacement of the Bay Street Reservoir tanks, which will be finished this year. Rates last went up in 2011.

Caring and sharing

In light of a sunnier budget outlook, several nonprofits are requesting funding increases over the cumulative $1 million they received last year. The Human Care Alliance came to a budget meeting to request a cost of living increase, in order to keep up with the rising costs of shelter, food and utilities. The council cut spending 10 percent on social programs in 2011, but will revisit the subject at its June 10 meeting.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Santa Cruz Gives

A look at the organizations we’re asking you to support in our new holiday giving campaign


Gratitude—For Each New Morning With its Light

The full moon of Wednesday brings light to Thanksgiving (Thursday) under the Sagittarius Sun and Mercury. Mercury in Sag offers humanity the message (Mercury) of thankfulness and joy (Jupiter). No other sign represents food, music and joy better than Sagittarius (only Pisces, when not in despair). Beginning on Thanksgiving, we can list what we’re grateful for. Then we can continue the list, creating a daily Gratitude Journal. What we are grateful for always increases in our lives. On Thanksgiving Saturn/Neptune square (challenging) is in full effect. This can manifest as traditions not being honored, disappearing, falling away. It can also create a sense of sadness, confusion, of things not working out as planned. It’s best to be as simple as possible. And to focus on gratitude instead. Gratitude is a service to others. It is scientifically and occultly a releasing agent. Releasing us from the past, allowing our future—the new culture and civilization, the new Aquarian laws and principles, the rising light of Aquarius, the Age of Friendship and Equality—to come forth. Gratitude and goodwill create the “thought-form of solution for humanity and the world’s problems.” The hierarchy lays great emphasis upon expressing gratitude. Gratitude illuminates all that is in darkness. Let us be grateful during this season together. Being, for others, the light that illuminates the darkness. A Poem by R.W. Emerson: We are grateful … “For each new morning with its light/For rest and shelter of the night/For health and food/For love and friends/For everything thy goodness sends.” (poem by R.W. Emerson). I am grateful for my family of readers.


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Pluck of the Irish

Mid-century immigrant tale engagingly told in ‘Brooklyn’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Second Street Café

Pies and tarts for all tastes—from traditional to adventurous


How are you preparing for El Niño?

Getting ready to buy some rain gear. Cory Pickering, Santa Cruz, Teaching Assistant


Fortino Winery

Cabernet and superb fruit wine from Fortino Winery


Tap Dance

West End Tap & Kitchen’s impressive menu to expand to Eastside location