By Raiza Giorgi
The City of Buellton is nearing a turning point as they aren’t solely focused on just providing basic services, according to newly hired City Manager Scott Wolfe.
In his first State of the City address, held on Feb. 26, he eagerly talked about focusing on amenities to residents, since management of past city administration has made Buellton financially stable and secure. Wolfe said he intends on continuing that path, and for Buellton to “take its place as the economic hub of the Santa Ynez Valley,” in his presentation.
Before the annual address, Wolfe gave several awards to a few deserving people who have made an impact in the community.
One of those awards is the Vincent B. Evans award, which was given to longtime community leader Kathy Vreeland, executive director of the Buellton Chamber and Visitor’s Bureau.
Vreeland said she was very humbled to be chosen this year.
“I kind of knew before, but I was so touched to listen to why they chose me,” she said. “I am so honored to be given this award as there are so many amazing people on that plaque.”
Buellton Parks and Recreation Coordinator Kyle Abello said she was well-deserving of the award.
“Kathy eats, sleeps, and breathes Buellton, and I can’t think of anyone more fitting to be recognized for carrying on the legacy of Mr. Evans in promoting Buellton as the best little city to live, work, and play,” he said. “She is always a pleasure to work with, whether it’s teaming up to produce the Buellton Winterfest or collaborating on smaller events or initiatives. Kathy Vreeland is the epitome of the friendly, kind-hearted and enthusiastic citizen that Buellton is lucky to have.”
The Beautification Award went to Gavin Moores with Capital Pacific Development Group, for the development of Village Park off McMurray Road. This park serves as a community park and consists of a walking path, play structures, restrooms, picnic tables, a gazebo and a large open grass space.
Buellton officials and other local dignitaries joined a crowd of about 130 people at the breakfast to hear about Buellton’s specific topics from City Manager Scott Wolfe.
“I have never done a State of the City address before and I think it went really well,” he said. “We have a lot of great projects in the works and the city is in a healthy financial situation.”
Presentations were included from various departments within the city and the chamber, who host many festivals each year, creating opportunities for both residents and tourists to experience the growing city. Those included the Buellton Wine and Chili Festival, the Easter Eggstravaganza, a July picnic, a big haunted house in October in collaboration with Solvang, and the popular Winterfest weekend. An entertaining video presentation from the Recreation Department depicted people participating in its many of those programs and activities.
In news of the inner workings of the city, Wolfe said revenue from property taxes and transient occupancy taxes are helping Buellton maintain a healthy budget with a surplus close to $1 million. Wolfe also noted that about half of the top sales tax and property tax generators are local businesses such as Rio Vista Chevrolet, The Hitching Post II, Anderson’s Pea Soup, The Habit, Industrial Eats, Albertsons, Platinum Performance, Farm Supply, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, Buellton Self Storage, Todd Pipe and Supply, and others.
The city has a budget of $15.5 million for the 2019/20 fiscal year. General fund revenues are projected at just over $8 million and general fund expenditures at $6.6 million. Several new projects are in the development pipeline, including the Village Hotels, a bowling alley project, and a second development project on Avenue of Flags and Second Street.
“Spearheaded by Councilmember John Sanchez, volunteers raised and lowered the flags each day for several months,” Wolfe said. “Councilmember Sanchez also investigated a solution in the form of solar powered lights on each flagpole. Those were installed last fall, and the flags are now lit and flying 24/7.”
According to Wolfe, issues facing the city include pension liabilities, as many cities are in crisis due to pension obligations; however, Buellton ranks among the best in California for pension risk. The city maintains a small staff of 20, and pays on a 20-year amortization instead of a 30-year. It is currently in development of a reserve policy.
Other issues are infringements on local control as the federal and state governments have been limiting abilities of cities to make decisions that impact their residents from wireless communication facilities, solar energy, outdoor food vending, housing and local elections.
Wolfe said Buellton will remain vigilant and active opposing more infringements.
He is hopeful that helping spur economic development within the city from enhancing transient-occupancy-tax opportunities with developing on McMurray Road, and supporting tourism.