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Decision due on ballot measure Monday, nov 29, 1999 following swearing in of new council members

Janet Abelson and Kathie Perka will be sworn in as council members Monday, Nov. 29. Before the evening is over they are scheduled to come to a decision on a matter the council has struggled with at its past four meetings.

The previous council had been in agreement that a measure be put on the March 7 ballot to raise up to $5.3 million to fund reconstruction of the city's swimming pool and four smaller park improvements. It has grappled with the details of the proposal, however, and time is running out.

The ordinance to put the measure on the ballot must be approved by the council in two separate votes, at least five days apart, before Dec. 10 to make the deadline for the March ballot. If the council votes Nov. 29 to stick with the wording chosen Nov. 22 it would constitute the second vote. If the wording is changed, another meeting and vote will be needed.

The measure currently before the council calls for a parcel tax, under which most homeowners would pay the same rate, spread over 20 years. The maximum tax would be $58.46 annually per single-family home. The maximum per multifamily residential unit would be $45, and for non-residential property, $410 an acre.

The measure would require that for the duration of the tax the city set aside in a dedicated maintenance and capital improvement fund an amount equal to the property transfer taxes collected by the city each year minus $250,000.

A simple majority -- three votes -- is needed to place the measure on the ballot.

At the Nov. 22 meeting Larry Damon, Gina Brusatori and Mark Friedman voted in favor. Voting against the measure were Norman La Force and Jane Bartke, who are leaving the council. La Force and Bartke have supported the idea of a ballot measure but disagreed with adding the dedicated maintenance and capital improvement fund to the measure at the last minute.

If placed on the ballot, the measure will require the support of two-thirds of the city's voters to pass.

The council meets at 8 p.m. Nov. 29 in council chambers at the Community Center, 7007 Moeser Lane. Meetings are broadcast on cable channel 25 and on FM radio KECG 88.1 and 97.7

Fiscal impact of capital improvement fund

According to a report prepared by City Manager Gary Pokorny for the Nov. 29 meeting, the property transfer tax has yielded an average of $525,400 per year since its inception in 1992. The amount has ranged from $377,000 in 1992-93 to a high of $839,000 in 1998-99.

Had the proposed set aside been in place during the past seven years, according to the report, an average $275,000 a year - approximately 2 percent of the city's annual budget -- would have been placed in the fund. The maintenance and capital replacement fund would have accrued $1,928,000.

The report notes that during the same period the city's undesignated reserve -- funds set aside to deal with emergencies and other unexpected costs -- has gone from virtually nothing to $2,630,000 on June 30, 1999. Council policy calls for the reserve to represent at least 10 percent of the city's budget which for the current year would be $1,364, 000.

Pokorny's report concludes: "These amendments are not likely to solve all of our capital facilities reconstruction needs over the next 20 years. They could make a significant contribution, however, if the reserve funds are used wisely.

"The effect of mandating the diversion of what are now 'flexible' or 'undesignated' revenues away from operations toward capital re-investment will, on the margin, make operating budget balancing somewhat more difficult for future councils, but should not present any insurmountable problems nor have any dire consequences for service levels."

Additional information will be presented at the council meeting Nov. 29, according to the report. The staff was unable to have the added detail available any sooner because of the holidays Nov. 25 and 26, the daily workload, and because of some staff being on vacation, the report said.

Run dates: 1999-11-26 - 1999-11-29

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