The San Luis Obispo City Council narrowly passed the city’s two-year budget Tuesday night by a 3-1 vote.
Councilman Dan Carpenter dissented amid concerns that the budget did not do enough to address the city’s pension obligations, future negotiations with employees or the looming sunset of Measure Y.
The council debated for hours about adding a police officer to patrol the downtown — with the majority of the council eventually conceding to the $186,240 annual price tag in order to pass the overall budget.
That decision means the city will get two new police officers downtown.
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The council had reached a previous consensus to add at least one officer downtown.
Councilwoman Kathy Smith did not waiver Tuesday night in her support of the second officer.
“We need to recognize that it is a paying proposition,” said Smith, adding that the downtown is the second-highest tax base for the city.
The council agreed to cut money from street paving, street sweeping, storm drain maintenance and parking lot resurfacing in order to fund the additional police officer.
Councilman John Ashbaugh said he reluctantly voted in favor of the second officer — only as a means to pass the budget. Ashbaugh said he thought it was “fiscally unwise.”
The City Council made several changes to the budget during a series of public meetings last week, including keeping the city’s open space capital improvement budget at $200,000 annually, moving up the $40,000 repair of the Jack House Gazebo, dedicating an additional $75,000 annually for bicycle lane improvements and moving up the installation of map/ kiosk stations and other signs downtown to help visitors.
The 2013-15 budget dictates spending $240.3 million for the two-year period starting July 1. The 2013 budget is projected at $111.3 million and the 2014 budget at $128.9 million.
It is a stark contrast from the budget struggles the city confronted two years ago in which more than
$3 million was cut from employee salaries and benefits to help bridge a $4.4 million shortfall in the general fund.
The City Council stayed true to its promise of spending more money on capital improvements.
The city will spend $21 million on capital improvements in the budget’s first year on things such as road repairs, buildings, technology, and fleet maintenance compared to the $5.8 million allotted in the 2012-13 budget.
The plans include a $1.2 million skate park. The skate park, more than a decade in the making, is set to open in January 2015.
The $57.4 million general fund budget includes an additional park ranger, extended hours for public restrooms downtown, significant improvements to bike pathways, and more police staff.