At least you can go to the library … There may not be enough money to go around, but the Chico City Council had little trouble June 14 making some adjustments to City Manager Tom Lando’s recommendations that it tentatively approve a city budget of $61.5 million, plus $14.7 for the Redevelopment Agency.

Lando, noting deals local governments have struck with the state, said, “I’m not as doom-and-gloom as I was.” Still, many vacancies will go unfilled and there will be less police and fire coverage under the 2004-05 budget.

Heeding the call of Councilmember Larry Wahl and dozens of supporters who showed up to the meeting bearing library books, the council voted 4-1 (Dan Nguyen-Tan offered “a very quiet dissent”) to give the county enough money to keep the Chico branch open 60 hours a week—$120,000 as opposed to the $90,000 recommended by Lando.

Mayor Maureen Kirk noted, “If you see somebody going through a red light … and there isn’t a policeman there, just realize that you can go to the library.”

While most city departments and community organizations that get city money suffered a 15-percent cut, the council did make some exceptions, cutting less than recommended from Innovative Health Care Services (the Peg Taylor Center for adult day care). But it did stick with a 35-percent cut in tourism dollars to the Chico Chamber of Commerce and the Chico Economic Planning Corporation.

The final budget is scheduled to be approved July 6.

School in view: The close of escrow June 10 on the 50 acres where the Chico Unified School District plans to build a new high school marks a huge hurdle overcome in the history of a bond that was passed way back in 1998.

School Board President Steve O’Bryan said that while he’s disappointed the CUSD “wasted” years pursuing a site on the east side of Bruce Road that would have pleased the development community, “I’m certainly glad that we’ve purchased a piece of property.”

O’Bryan said the delay also drove up the price of the property to $5,250,000, which was $2,250,000 over budget, but the district was able to cover that with developer fees, and he figures the property’s value is growing by the week.

“I think the big hurdle ahead is to try to find the money to staff [the school],” O’Bryan said. Next, the district will review the education specifications and set architects to work on the design of the school. The board supports the idea of an environmentally friendly construction, taking advantage of solar power and seeking grants to do so.

The Canyon View High School property, for those asleep at the wheel for the last six years, is at the corner of Bruce Road and Raley Boulevard near the Skyway.

No Frankenfoods here: A group campaigning for a ballot initiative to ban genetically engineered (GE) crops from being grown anywhere in the county was told this week by the county Registrar’s Office that it filed more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. That means that, come November, voters will decide whether Butte becomes the second county after Mendocino to ban GE crops. Activists say such crops, many of which are banned in Europe and Japan over health and safety fears, could contaminate the fields of organic farmers and lower the value of food grown in Butte County.