Del Mar considers restarting committee meetings

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

Del Mar City Council members voted 3-2 Monday, June 15, to explore their options for restarting committee meetings that have been on hold for several months due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The council also discussed a series of proposed budget cuts to be considered at a meeting Wednesday, June 17. Proposed cuts include five city staff layoffs, one position that will be eliminated by attrition, and layoffs of part-time administrative employees and paid interns. Two positions that will be furloughed by 50%. Reductions in employee expenditures total a little more than $1 million out of approximately $4 million in proposed reductions to offset projected losses in revenue.

For the record:

6:48 p.m. June 17, 2020A previous version of this story said seven city employees will be laid off; five employees will be laid off, one position will be eliminated by attrition, and part-time administrative employees and paid interns will be laid off.

“This is a big impact for us, but it was our last resort,” City Manager C.J. Johnson said on Monday, June 15, referring to the layoffs.

Another recommendation was to transfer $290,370 from Measure Q to the general fund for state-mandated transportation maintenance purposes, in addition to $75,000 from Measure Q funds that would have been used for those costs anyway.

Other budget reductions proposed ahead of the Wednesday, June 17, meeting included approximately $550,000 in operating costs, $650,000 in capital improvements and $400,000 in special projects.

After COVID-19 led to the closure of city facilities and cancellations of in-person meetings, cuts in staff time have impacted the city’s regularly scheduled committee meetings. Full-time city employees have had their hours cut 10%.

With all meetings taking place remotely, only the Finance Committee, Design Review Board, Planning Commission and City Council have been holding meetings. All others will remain canceled through at least August. City staff originally proposed canceling them through the 2020-21 fiscal year because of the reductions in staff time needed to facilitate those meetings. Some committees, such as the Measure Q Citizen Oversight Committee, could meet as-needed, city staff recommended.

But after the council’s vote on Monday night, June 15, council members will reach out to committee chairs to discuss the logistics of restarting their meetings without city staff support, except for tasks such as posting meeting agendas and minutes.

“They’re right at the core of our whole relationship with the community,” Councilman Dwight Worden said.

Mayor Ellie Haviland added that they’re “part of the heart of Del Mar.”

Deputy Mayor Terry Gaasterland and Councilman Dave Druker voted against exploring ways to expedite the relaunch of committee meetings. Druker said the council and staff should focus on services that they previously identified as “Tier 1,” which include the services the city is legally required to provide, as well as essential public health and safety costs.

“We need to be working on essential things,” Druker said.