City of Live Oak Struggles over Budget and ShutdownJul 21, 2021 12:00AM ● By Seti Long
LIVE OAK, CA (MPG) – At the time of print, the information contained in this article may be, and hopefully so, matters of the past. But, if the vote remains deadlocked 2-2 at the Wednesday, July 21st Live Oak City Council meeting, the motion to pass the FY 2021/22 Budget failing again, Live Oak could continue its decent further into the unknown.
As a re-cap, matters complicated for the City of Live Oak when former Mayor Luiz Hernandez announced his resignation effective May 31st, leaving the council 60 days to fill his seat by council vote or by special election. Unable to come to a consensus at that time, Council installed Vice Mayor Nancy Santana as Mayor Pro-tem until the vacancy on the council was filled and a vote to fill the mayor’s position revisited. Applicants for the position were reviewed, but ultimately none nominated for the position were selected due to a 2-2 vote standstill between sitting councilmembers.
Live Oak continued forward, holding special meetings and public study sessions regarding the proposed FY 2021/22 Budget to facilitate its passing. The budget appeared on the agenda to be adopted at the June 29, 2021 special meeting but failed to pass, along with a three-month resolution to lock down operation costs at the level equal to the most recent budget, a measure that could potentially keep the City running if the budget was not adopted. On a positive note, council managed to unanimously approve a two-week continuance, enabling council to revisit the budget again at the next regularly scheduled meeting. Meanwhile, the potential of a shutdown loomed on the horizon for the City of Live Oak.
Without a tie-breaking vote, the motion to approve the FY 2021/22 Budget ultimately failed at the July 14th City Council meeting, the fate of the City of Live Oak falling victim to the 2-2 deadlock vote again. Councilmembers Bob Woten and Vice Mayor Nancy Santana voted to approve the budget, with Councilmembers Lahkvir Ghag and J.R. Thiara voting against its passing.
As of midnight July 14th, the City of Live Oak is shut down.
The resulting shutdown and deadlock seems to, in part, stem from concerns about budgeted items that two councilmembers have allegedly questioned and the supposed lack of answers/information from City Staff. Councilmember Thiara posed a very valid question, “Why is the proposed budget for this year 2021/2022 lower with the City operating in full force than the proposed and funds spent last year 2019/2020 during the peak COVID shut down?” In a statement made to the Appeal Democrat, Councilmember Woten says, “The budget is just a projection of what we might spend….That can be adjusted. And any monies that are going to be spent need to be approved by the council anyway.” Regardless, it seems that questions remain unanswered for some councilmembers and thus, the City has been forced to shutdown.
Currently, all but 20 full-time “essential” employees of the City are without paid work. City Hall remains open for business until July 28th, but non-essential services such as Parks & Recreation and the City Pool have been closed. If the City fails to pass the budget after July 28th, those closures could extend to essential workers and other departments, although Sutter County Supervisor Nick Micheli assured the residents of Live Oak on air with 93Q Radio that services contracted through the county, such as fire, police/sheriff will not be interrupted.
Live Oak City Council is to reconvene Wednesday, July 21st, for another vote on the budget and if it manages to pass, the City of Live Oak will reopen. If it fails once more, City Manager Aaron Palmer says, it will again be seen on a special meeting agenda, tentatively scheduled for July 28th. “Staff will bring to the Council, on July 28th, 2 weeks’ worth of payroll. If the payroll does not pass then the City will be shut down….The only way for the City to not shut down is if the Council approves the payroll or the budget,” says Palmer.
What happens if the City of Live Oak shuts down completely? Well, that seems to be uncharted territory and a bridge into the unknown Live Oak will have to cross if it reaches that point.
The City of Live Oak meetings are open to the public and are held at Live Oak City Hall, the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month. To view upcoming agendas, attend upcoming meetings via Zoom and/or to review past meetings, please visit liveoakcity.org.