Buellton's annual State of the City luncheon on Wednesday afternoon doubled as a festive farewell for the city's top employee.
Marc Bierdzinski, who has worked for the city of Buellton since 2005 and been its city manager since 2013, delivered his final State of the City address to a crowd of about 300 people that filled the pavilion at the Flying Flags RV Resort. Bierdzinski noted that the city was on solid footing and offered a positive outlook for its future, but the presentation started with a look back at his past.
Mayor Holly Sierra, who opened her comments by announcing that Bierdzinski would be retiring from his post at the end of June, shared a slideshow with photos related to Bierdzinski, who began his Buellton tenure as the city’s planning director 14 years ago. She began the slideshow with a couple of photos of a very young Bierdzinski, drawing some “aahs” and laughter from the audience.
“He looked different from today, but that was Marc,” she said after displaying the baby photos.
“What a cutie,” she added.
On a more serious note, Sierra went on to list many of the projects in which Bierdzinski has had a hand over the past 14 years and concluded her presentation by thanking him for his dedication, noting that he “did the job as if he didn’t have any extracurricular activities.”
“Most important, he’s worked hard to keep our city of Buellton safe and fiscally sound,” she said. “After some years of service to our community, it’s time for Marc to relax with his wife, Sandy, and get on with the next chapter of his life.”
Bierdzinski took over from there and walked around the pavilion floor interacting with attendees as he went over some of the key aspects of the city over the past year.
Financially, he said, Buellton is in great shape with about $7.5 million in revenues against just $6.6 million in expenses. Much of that revenue comes from taxes, and the expenses are kept down in large part because the city contracts with outside agencies for many of its services, he noted. Of particular note, he said, are the city’s contracts with Santa Barbara County for law enforcement and fire services.
“If we had our own police and fire (departments), that chunk would be at least half of the budget and all the other departments would be shrunk,” he said, pointing to a chart showing the city’s budget breakdown. “So contracting — you may think it’s expensive, [but] it does save the city a lot of money.”
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Bierdzinski said the city has a reserve of about 25 percent of its unassigned fund balance, or about $2 million.
He noted that the city is continuing to encourage residents to remain diligent in conserving water, despite the region having emerged from drought conditions, and also talked about the city’s Green Team, which promotes sustainability initiatives.
Among the upcoming changes highlighted by Bierdzinski was the planned transition this year of the Buellton Library — as well as other Santa Ynez Valley libraries — to the Goleta Library umbrella after several of years of being managed by the Santa Barbara Public Library System. That shift was approved by the Buellton City Council late last year.
Bierdzinski also pointed to several new projects that are planned to take shape in 2019, perhaps most notably the Live Oaks Lanes bowling alley. The mention of that project, which has been in the works for years, drew applause and cheers from the audience.
Bierdzinski confirmed with the Live Oaks Lanes owners, who were in the audience, that they are planning to submit drawings to the Buellton planning department in the near future.
“We should be bowling soon,” Bierdzinski said, drawing some laughter.
Other projects that have been approved include The Commons and Central Avenue Homes, which are housing developments, as well as Village Hotels, and two mixed-use developments named The Hub and The Network.
Bierdzinski also expressed excitement about the city’s Avenue of Flags Specific Plan, which was adopted in 2017 to revitalize the Avenue of Flags area. Among the changes planned in that area are an art deco architecture theme and economic incentives to draw businesses.
“I think the future of the Avenue is bright, and we’re gonna crush it,” he said of fulfilling the vision of the plan.
In other news from the event, which was put on by the Buellton Chamber of Commerce, Buellton Union District Superintendent Randal Haggard announced that Jonata Middle School had been selected by the California Department of Education as a Distinguished School. Haggard said he received notification of the selection from the state on Tuesday.
The 2019 California Distinguished Schools Program, according to the California Department of Education, recognizes "middle and high schools that have made exceptional gains in implementing the academic content and performance standards adopted by the State Board of Education for all students."