SLO City Council lines up money for its 2013-15 budget

City Council begins process of allocating funds for two years of projects, including fighting homelessness and building a skate park

acornejo@thetribunenews.comApril 9, 2013 

The San Luis Obispo City Council delved deep into the city’s upcoming two-year budget Tuesday night as its members began a two-month process of deciding where the city’s money will be spent.

Tuesday was the first glance at how city administrators envision funding the seven major city goals the City Council decided it would focus on in the 2013-15 budget.

Deterring panhandling and other harassing behavior downtown by transients and others was among the most discussed issues.

In January, the council declared finding solutions to homelessness as the city’s main priority. The city plans to spend $324,096 on homelessness in the upcoming two fiscal years. That amount may change if council members decide they want more done.

The city has proposed spending $60,000 to pay the overtime costs needed to create a two-person police team that would focus solely on transient issues and work with mental health and social service providers to find long-term solutions.

Because those officers will patrol the entire city, some people, including the Downtown Association, have begun lobbying for a stronger, dedicated police presence downtown. Councilwoman Kathy Smith said she agreed with that sentiment.

“I don’t think we can stand by and watch it for much longer ... it is time to do something,” Smith said.

Other council members, including Mayor Jan Marx, said they would like to try adding officers dedicated to homeless issues for a year to see if they had an impact.

A clearer picture also emerged Tuesday of how the city plans to meet the other goals prioritized by the council, such as: improving neighborhoods, expanding paths for cyclists and pedestrians, improving Mission Plaza, implementing the city’s freshly drafted economic strategic plan and building a skate park.

The city will spend an estimated $10.9 million on the city’s seven goals in 2013-14.

Long-standing supporters of the skate park commended the council for finally earmarking the $1.2 million needed to build it.

The skate park, more than a decade in the making, is set to open in January 2015.

However, cycling enthusiasts encouraged the council to spend more on bike paths and other infrastructure.

Support was also given to the city’s plans to create a possible moratorium on alcohol venues downtown as a way to revitalize the area.

A five-year fiscal forecast for the city continues to show an upward trend for the roughly $59 million general fund. Sales tax revenue is expected to grow about 4 percent annually.

However, the city must also plan for looming expenses such as larger contributions to CalPERS to cover unfunded pension liabilities and the $8 million the city will put toward building the Los Osos Valley Road interchange.

The council will not vote on a final passage of the budget until June.

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