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City Council Reinstates Three Firefighter Positions

After discussing all sides, the debate between budget and safety is decided.

Wednesday night's Santee was less entertaining than usual, had a sore throat, and the council voted to appropriate funds for the three full time .

While the last meeting was a debate about safety and how many firefighters the city really needs, this week was mainly to see if the city can afford the positions, which were previously provided for by grant money tied to the - firefighters that were added in expectation of a population jump which hasn't occurred.

, staff returned to Council with a budget amendment laying out what it will cost, this year and into the future, to keep the position. Those costs come to $568,000 for the rest of this fiscal year and the next- and the only place left for the city to cut is General Fund Reserves, the city's backup funds that have been steadily draining since 2008.

Those costs are comparable to the $594,400 in repairs that currently requires.

The council voted to amend this year's budget to include the positions, but they must decide to fund them each year the budget is voted on. If kept on, the three firefighters would drain $1.6 million from the General Fund Reserves through June of 2016, according to City figures. See more budget details in the attached budget status summary.

"I support funding the firefighter positions for this year, and will reduce reserves to $5.9 million, considering that economy will get better, if not, the positions are gone," said Mayor Randy Voepel.

Santee Finance Director Tim McDermott said that with the city receiving less property tax revenue than expected and a number of burdens handed down from Sacramento led to a budget shortfall of about $400,000 this year, and a structural budget deficit of about $1.1 million when you take out the $700,000 one-time payback of legal fees for the .

"Property tax rates in the future seem inflated," said Councilmember in response to the expected property tax revenues used in city budget calculations. "I don't see two to three percent increase in the next few years, and real estate's my industry.

"I didn't realize we're really talking about half a million dollars," he said.

The council seemingly tired with debate, Councilmember John Minto abruptly made a motion to appropriate funds to reinstate the firefighters. The council voted 3-2 in favor, with Minto and McNelis voting no.

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