Guadalupe's City Council voted 5-0 Tuesday night to firmly state that it wants to remain a city, in response to a Santa Barbara grand jury recommendation that the city should disincorporate.
"We're not going to disincorporate," Councilwoman Gina Rubalcaba said. "We know the city and its residents don't want that and we're going to do everything we can within our power to stay the city of Guadalupe."
In April, the grand jury presented 13 findings in a report titled “Guadalupe Shell Game Must End,” which led to the recommendation to disincorporate. Of the 13, the council disagreed with eight, partially disagreed with three and agreed with two.
All 13 suggestions had to do with financial difficulties the city has had in recent years, many of which the council contends were already being addressed by the city before the grand jury report. They include using state gas tax funds for non-transportation purposes and a deficit in the city's general fund totaling more than $300,000.
"It seems to me, my belief is, that we were kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place at that point, and didn't really have a lot of places to turn to so just that alone is a little sobering," said Councilman Jerry Beatty. "Obviously, better accounting mechanisms, better cost allocation methodologies that have been put into place will rectify that."
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Some measures the city has already taken to get back on track include taking out a loan form its own Water Operating Fund and Lighting District to cover deficits, and three resident-voted tax measures to increase revenues including raising sewer and garbage rates.
The council's written response says it expects to have a balanced budget in 2015-16. It also mentions the city's fear that public safety resources would not be as effective if provided by the county.
“This is not just a matter of small town pride,” the council wrote. “It also has to do with public safety. Guadalupe residents want to make sure that police and fire protection are provided from within city limits.”
Similarly, the council addressed its yearly audit at the meeting. The audit had similar findings to the grand jury, but also reflected progress the city has made over the last two years. Mayor pro tem Ariston Julian encouraged anyone interested to look at the findings (available on the city's website) because they are public record.
"The findings are there," Julian said. "We have work to do and I think on a positive note, we know what we know and now it's time for us to start moving forward on it."