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SCOTTS VALLEY >> The Scotts Valley City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a roughly $13 million general fund budget that cut spending by $1 million mainly due to revenue loss from COVID-19 shutdowns. 

The 4-0 vote was swift, after almost no council discussion. During public comment, five residents asked for more street improvements to Bluebonnet Lane, between Kings Village and Bean Creek roads. No change was made to the staff’s proposed budget. Mayor Randy Johnson was absent.

City leaders expect to update the budget in coming months as the financial impact of COVID-19 becomes clear. 

City leaders expect $2 million less revenue from sales and hotel taxes through Tuesday when the fiscal year ends. Another $2 million loss is anticipated in the next 12 months. Scotts Valley Administrative Services Director Tony McFarlane said that the budget approved Wednesday plans for a moderate economic recovery that extends into the following fiscal year. City leaders want to be flexible, in case the speed of recovery changes.

“To say that this has been the most challenging of budget cycles would be an understatement,” McFarlane said.

Scotts Valley has a roughly $13 million general fund budget for the current fiscal year. City leaders had planned for a $14 million general fund budget for fiscal 2019-20 because voters approved a sales tax increase in March. But COVID-related revenue losses prompted $1 million in spending cuts. 

Spending cuts include:

  • A hiring freeze with exceptions for three vacant police positions. It saves about $700,000. Positions that will not be filled include a police captain, four staff members in the Community Development Department and a Public Works chief mechanic.
  • A decision not to give one-time grants to local nonprofits, which saves about $60,000.
The Scotts Valley City Council on Wednesday approved a roughly $13 million budget that included $1 million of cuts due to COVID-19 revenue losses. (City of Scotts Valley)

The council also approved a $5.3 million capital improvement plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1. It funds 28 projects that include:

  • $1.3 million of upgrades to Glenwood Drive
  • $550,000 toward replacing Brook Knoll and Vine Hill schools’ daycare modular buildings
  • $750,000 of library improvements, funded by Measure S
  • $93,000 toward a police department locker room
  • $193,000 for new phones 

Scotts Valley police

Wednesday, Scotts Valley Police Chief Steve Walpole gave an annual report on crime statistics and his department’s use-of-force policy. The presentation was prompted by the death of George Floyd during his arrest in Minneapolis in May.

During public comment, resident Sara Rigler spoke about her biracial sons.

“From the moment they were 2 and 5, I introduced them to the police at every opportunity when we were volunteering, because I feared for their safety,” Rigler said. “And the police got to know us as a family because we don’t look alike. And now I fear for them even more because they’re in their 20s and the public for some reason considers black men a threat. They’re law-abiding citizens. They’ve never been arrested.”

She encouraged the community to have difficult discussions, “because there is definitely racism in Scotts Valley as well as in Felton and the San Lorenzo Valley,” said Rigler.

Scotts Valley Police Chief Steve Walpole

Chief Walpole said Scotts Valley police arrested about 500 people and used force five times in 2019.

“Which means we did not have to use force 99% of the time, which is a great stat. I was actually surprised it was that low,” Walpole said. No serious injuries resulted, he said.

He said one area his department could improve was implicit bias training. Implicit biases are unconscious attitudes or stereotypes. It’s been two years since officers received that training. He said he plans to get all officers trained in implicit bias in the next year. 

The police department has a $5.7 million budget for the fiscal year that starts Wednesday. It’s roughly the same as the previous year’s budget.

Arrests and citations in the city dropped 31% and 39% respectively in 2019, according to an annual report. Vandalism and graffiti reports rose by 38%, with 77 total incidents. Reported major crimes such as rape, robbery, burglary and theft dropped by 19% that year.

Kara Meyberg Guzman is the CEO and co-founder of Santa Cruz Local. ​Prior to Santa Cruz Local, she served as the Santa Cruz Sentinel’s managing editor. She has a biology degree from Stanford University and lives in Santa Cruz.