Santa Paula facing a drastic cut in state funding

January 21, 2003
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesSanta Paula is facing a drastic cut in state funds if a plan to close the state budget shortfall falls on the backs of cities and counties.The City Council will receive a report on the issue from City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz at the Jan. 21st meeting. After hearing the report the council will be asked to provide direction to staff on legislative advocacy efforts.Under the proposal, $4.2 billion would be withheld statewide from cities and counties, with Santa Paula losing over $551,000, about 7 percent of General Fund revenues, for fiscal year 2002-2003 and double that amount - $1.185 million, or 14.6 percent - in 2003-2004.A primary revenue source for cities has been the vehicle license tax, said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, and the $1.67 million pre-cut revenue from same “represents almost 20 percent of total General Fund revenues. . .”The average percentage statewide is 16 percent, he added, “but we rely on it a little more than the average city does.”The threatened state payments - to be made in perpetuity - had been part of a deal reached by the state in 1998 when they cut the vehicle license tax by two-thirds, biting into a major city and county funding source. State lawmakers pledged to make up the shortfall in exchange for the cut, spearheaded by state Senator Tom McClintock.
With the state’s looming $34.6 billion budget shortfall, the cut could mean that Ventura County loses $14 million this year and up to $35 million in 2003-2004. The county has a $1.2 billion budget.“What really alarms me is that the proposed takeaway is even higher next year,” said Mayor John Procter. “It’s hard to comment at this point. . .all the cities are in the same boat and we can’t roll over and play dead. We have to continue to do the best we can with what we have.”Bobkiewicz said that although there is talk of reinstating the vehicle tax on the state level, “anything is possible,” with scheduled hearings on the issue starting next week.Santa Paula’s Fire Chief Paul Skeels and Police Chief Bob Gonzales will be traveling next month to Sacramento for a conference, and “will let our state representatives, Assemblyman Tony Strickland and Senator Pete McKnight, know firsthand the impacts,” the cuts would have on public safety services, said Bobkiewicz.

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