Translation Services at Meetings Spark Debate as Santa Maria City Council Passes Budget | Local News

A budget without layoffs or service cuts narrowly received Santa Maria Town Hall‘s approval this week amid a dispute over the provision of Spanish translation services during meetings.

Mayor Alice Patino along with council members Etta Waterfield and Mike Cordero voted to pass the budget, but their colleagues Gloria Soto and Carlos Escobedo voted against.

The dispute arose after City Manager Jason Stilwell offered options for translation services ranging from the status quo, with live interpreters working during meetings upon prior request, to the city paying for an interpreter to attend all meetings of the advice.

“The threshold question is whether the board wants to do something different, and then how much,” Stilwell said.

A moderate option would be to initiate closed captions in Spanish for Youtube meeting recordings.

Language interpreters translate orally (sometimes in a real-time setting, such as government meetings or court hearings), while the term translator generally refers to someone who translates written material from one language to another. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably for translation services.

About 65% of residents in the city of Santa Maria speak a language other than English at home, according to data from the US Census Bureau.

Soto and Escobedo supported hiring Spanish-language interpreters, with Escobedo suggesting a one-year trial period to gauge demand for the service.

“I just can’t stress the importance of accessibility for all residents when it comes to local government so that we can ensure genuine and genuine engagement,” Soto said. “I would say we’re going to do the whole thing. Let’s bring someone.

“I disagree,” Waterfield said, adding that the $200,000 cost could be used for other programs, and pushed for a conservative approach.

City staff provided an estimate of $200,000 for the service based on Santa Barbara County costs. However, county meetings are often all day long and include two locations (in the courtrooms of the Santa Barbara and Santa Maria administration buildings), so they may not be valid for Santa’s anticipated expenses. Mary.

Stilwell said the city has in the past paid $60 an hour for a two-hour minimum for translators, which would make the cost much lower than the county.

Waterfield, Patino and Cordero voted to add Spanish closed captions to YouTube video replays of council meetings in addition to continuing to provide translators at city council meetings upon prior request. They also asked staff to contact Spanish-language media to share information about the services offered.

“If the need is there, then I agree 100% we should have someone here to do it,” Cordero said. He added that translation services should not be limited to Spanish, but include Mixtec and other locally spoken languages ​​as needed.

“I think some people have to take responsibility too. We cannot take full responsibility for that,” Patino said.

“I think we have to keep in mind that this is taxpayers’ money and we have a lot of unfunded things that we need to do in Santa Maria,” Patino added. “I think we have to be wise in how we spend taxpayers’ money.”

“In my 19 years with the city, I don’t recall a single employee or meeting rejecting people or making anyone feel very unwelcome,” Waterfield said.

Escobedo said council should consider how to accommodate members of the Spanish-speaking community in guest rooms.

“At least let’s try for a year…” said Escobedo, for whom Spanish is the first language. “Let’s find common ground. Let’s go, let people know and then we can move on. That would be my two cents.

“I have no idea what you said,” Waterfield said with a laugh. “I’m just trying to understand.”

Soto expressed his disappointment with some comments from his colleagues during the discussion

“The others, it’s terrible to be completely frank. It’s important for us to remember that the Spanish-speaking monolingual community is also part of our taxpayer base,” Soto said, adding that having translators would remove a barrier.

The Santa Maria Mixed High School and Santa Maria Bonita school districts routinely provide Spanish language interpretation services at their board meetings.

The City’s biennial financial plan, available herecovers the financial years 2022-2023 and 2023-2024.

For the next fiscal year, beginning July 1, appropriations for all funds will be $333.5 million, including $119.4 million for the general fund.

The budget proposed the addition of 36 full-time positions and five part-time positions, including six in the police department and two in the fire department.

The city plans to restore the hours of operation of the Santa Maria Public Library on Sundays and extend the hours of operation of the bookmobile in the second year.

The budget also includes $22.8 million over two years to upgrade the Santa Maria Regional Transit fleet, primarily to add electric buses.

A second aerial ladder truck, at a cost of $1 million, is proposed for the fire department.

Other changes include moving the code enforcement division from the city attorney’s office to the community development department.

The budget also proposed 151 capital projects at $140.7 million. However, several dozen proposed projects will not be funded.

“Overall, this is a balanced budget that maintains and improves public services. We can be proud of this two-year spending plan for what it will do in our community,” Stilwell said.

– Noozhawk North County Editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Login with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Richard F. Gandhi