watsonville city council
These boy warm up on the soccer field at Ramsay Park. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian file

WATSONVILLE—The Watsonville City Council at its Tuesday night meeting will take its first look at the proposed restructured budget for the 2020/21 fiscal year, which includes seven layoffs and the elimination of all sports programs.

The council is also expected to make major changes to the city’s cannabis rules, including possibly increasing the number of permits and the size of allowed cultivation.

The meeting starts at 6:30pm. The public can participate in the meeting here or by calling 786-535-3211 and entering access code 794-248-253.

The public can also submit comments before the meeting here.

Watsonville is expected to be in a $6.5 million deficit next fiscal year. The majority of that deficit is a result of the countywide shelter-in-place restrictions put in place to slow the novel coronavirus. The city’s sales tax—21% of the general fund’s yearly revenue—is expected to be down 26.3%, according to the city’s staff report.

To meet that deficit, the city is proposing large reductions to salaries and benefits ($3 million) and discretionary spending ($1.3 million), and the use of $2.2 million of its emergency reserves.

Of the seven employees receiving layoff notices, the city believes two can be placed into other positions. The others will remain on the city’s rehire list for up to a year and will have “first rights” at job openings in their departments for which they are qualified.

Three employees from the Parks and Community Services Department and two from the Community Development Department are on the chopping block. The cuts come in departments where employees cannot “do their normal jobs” because of the shelter-in-place restrictions, according to the staff report.

Those moves account for $671,000 of the $3 million proposed cuts to salaries and benefits.

See the complete proposed budget here.

City finance staff will return to the council every quarter to ask for budgetary adjustments if they are needed.

Cannabis rule changes

The city council will weigh large changes to the way cannabis businesses and cultivators operate within city limits.

The council last debated changes in early March but after heated debate decided to postpone its decision.

Atop the list of proposed changes is the number of permits allowed and district regulations. Staff is recommending the council allow six more manufacturing licenses (15 total), two more retail dispensary permits (3 total), seven new non-storefront retail licenses, two more processing permits (3 total) and another distribution permit (2 total). It is also asking the council to allow an unlimited number of testing permits.

Staff is also recommending the council allow dispensaries to operate in visitor commercial, industrial park and general industrial districts—mostly properties on the city’s outskirts.

See the proposed changes here.

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Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor of The Pajaronian for five years and three years as Managing Editor. He is a Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus.


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