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SLO city budgeting begins; sacred cows are worried 

Now comes the hard part.

The San Luis Obispo City Council began to plot how to deal with a $4.4 million (and rising) annual structural budget deficit at its April 12 meeting. As with the first stage of cooking a steak for a meal, it wasn’t fun to watch. The laborious process means the slaughtering of any sacred cows will have to wait; dealing with difficult cuts was postponed to a special April 19 afternoon meeting.

What did emerge at the meeting? Preliminary plans call for the elimination of 10 staff positions and nearly a million dollars’ worth of revenue enhancements: tax and fee increases for the two-year budget. The budget also dips into the city reserves for the first year and depends on city employees to make $2.1 million in concessions and contributions to “reduce ongoing personnel costs.”

These are only the staff’s suggestions. The council members seemed eager to modify them, so the final budget will likely be substantially different. The council set the mood for the next stage by tinkering with some of the preliminary ideas. City staffers wanted to spend $80,000 on both a “scientific” opinion poll and, if the results looked negative, an education campaign to convince the public to renew Measure Y, a half-cent sales tax. The council cut that proposed funding to $25,000, enough only to fund the poll.

Also that day, the council voted to spend $105,000 a year on the city’s two homeless shelters, while allotting $170,000 to repaint a municipal parking garage on Marsh Street to eliminate “unsightly water stains.”

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