Sometimes the little folks can show the big fellas how to get things done.

A case in point involves budget talks by the Buellton City Council, which is working toward final resolution of the city’s first biennial budget cycle.

OK, we sort of knew the definition of biennial, but we looked it up anyway, because its normal usage comes when discussing flowering plants. It means something that occurs every two years.

The Buellton city staff and council members have been working on a budget plan for awhile, and the council gave preliminary approval at a recent meeting, with the final OK expected in a few days.

And when we say the little guys showing the big guys how it’s done, we are referring to the city staff and locally-elected representatives putting all the parts together to come up with a budget plan that works, and even better, ends the two-year cycle in the black, rather than swimming in a sea of fiscal red ink.

The “big guys” in this instance refers to our elected representatives in Congress, who year in and year out seem overwhelmed by the budget-setting struggle, and although they always manage to come up with something to keep the federal government in operation, the joy of ending a budget cycle with a surplus has somehow been elusive.

Not so in Buellton. In fact, what had been predicted to be an ending surplus of $122,000 will actually be more on the magnitude of $340,000, thanks to some budgeting magic and an unanticipated gift of $250,000 from the county Council of Governments to be used for Highway 246 repairs inside city limits.

That gift, along with city officials agreeing to shift internal funding, creates the expected budget surplus, a significant chunk of which has been dedicated to community improvements.

For example, the council agreed to set aside $50,000 to help accelerate construction of the Santa Ynez River Trail, work that had been lagging because of funding issues.

Another slice of the budget, $25,000, will be used in the city’s Cash for Grass program, which is designed to help local properties owners transition traditional grass lawns to more drought-resistant landscaping.

You do remember that we have the occasional drought, right? A winter of above-average rainfall tends to make folks forget the realities of life in California, one aspect of which is that no matter how much rain we get one winter, the next five or six winters — or more — could be dry as a parched bone in the Mojave.

We need to give city officials a pat on the back for another reason — hiring managers who can multi-task. In the case of City Manager Marc Bierdzinski, the multi-tasking involves his role as overall top administrator, coupled with his abilities as city planning director. Why pay two employees when one very capable person can do both jobs? Bierdzinski’s dual-capacity role saves the city’s taxpayers about $80,000 a year.

Praise also is due for Mayor Holly Sierra’s list of internal budget cuts and funding shifts that help keep the city in the black fiscally.

The money for trails work is especially important. Buellton has grown into a real destination, rather than a place for motorists to stop for a few minutes while traveling Highway 101. Making better accommodations for visitors so they’ll stay awhile also improves recreational opportunities for local residents. The river trails network will add greatly to the area’s overall appeal.

We truly enjoy watching such a plan come together, and we’re pretty sure Buellton taxpayers do too.


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