OCEANSIDE — City Council slashed $6.9 million from the city operating budget in a 3-2 vote, in which Mayor Jim Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez voted no, on Oct. 21. Council also voted to sell its $9.5 million IOU from the state in a 3-2 vote, in which Councilmen Jerry Kern and Rocky Chavez voted no.
With a $7.2 million budget cut in June, $6.9 million cut in October, sell out of the state IOU and a $9.7 million dip into city reserves, Oceanside’s budget stands balanced — after the state took $4.5 million in Proposition 1A borrowing, $1.5 million in gas deferral and $3.5 million in Proposition 42 and Proposition 18 deferral.
The decline in the economy and consumer spending, and rise in pension and health costs has also effected the city budget, Financial Services Director Teri Ferro said.
Approved budget cuts cost the city $36,000 in council member expenses, like travel and bottled water, $35,000 in funding to the Boys & Girls Club, and cuts across the board in every department including a $1.997 million cut in police and $500,000 cut in fire.
The decision on whether to brown out service of one of the four ambulances to save another $434,000 is still under consideration.
“This is painful,” Councilman Jerry Kern said. “Every job is important. We’re a service delivery business.”
Left in the budget is funding to staff the San Luis Rey Resource Center and add one more position to the Financial Services Department.
The city is also working with the property owner of the building where the San Luis Rey Resource Center is housed to negotiate rent reduction, City Manager Peter Weiss said. Services will continue if a reduction in rent cannot be reached, but they may be in a different location.
The reorganization of the Financial Services Department eliminated eight positions and created six new ones, including the one recently added, Weiss said. The six new positions will be open to all city employees. “Employees will have to compete for the new positions,” Weiss said. “It is unlikely they will be losing those jobs, just doing something different.”
Budget cuts to police and fire did not go over without protest.
“Landscaping and a few other things don’t come before employees,” Wood said. “I’d like for us to look into other options. We did change our image in the last few years. I don’t want to reverse back because of safety.”
Many speakers protested the browning out of one ambulance, which will be brought back to council to vote Nov. 4.
“My mother in law is still around because of these gentlemen’s help,” Chuck McDonell, an Oceanside resident, said. “Let’s look at life and safety as a high priority.”
“We already cut a fire captain and battalion chiefs,” Oceanside resident Rex Martin said. “Talking about taking away one of the paramedic units is just not acceptable.”