Subcommittee reviews mid-cycle budget adjustments

Martinez City Hall

MARTINEZ, Calif. – In advance of the June 20 Martinez City Council meeting, the Council’s Budget and Finance Subcommittee heard Wednesday that some taxes are producing more revenues than expected. But sales tax revenues are slightly lower while the cost of some city operations are costing more.

Finance Director David Glasser first gave the subcommittee – Mayor Rob Schroder and Councilmember Debbie McKillop – the good news, that property tax and the vehicle license fee property tax swap revenues are better than expected.

The Vehicle License Fee Property Tax Swap revenues should be $115,159 more than budgeted.

The Vehicle License Fee (VLF) for property tax swap is an exchange of revenues that dates back to the 2004 Budget Act, in which Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed an exchange of city and county vehicle license fee, or motor vehicle in-lieu tax, revenues for additional property tax share as part of a state and local budget agreement, according to the Coleman Advisory Services’ analysis.

Prior to the 2004 Budget Act, the vehicle license fee tax rate was 2 percent of the value of the vehicle. The state general fund offset 67.5 percent of that tax, resulting in an effective tax rate of 0.65 percent. Then VLF taxpayer revenues were supplemented with a backfill from the state general fund to provide cities and counties with revenues equivalent to a full 2 percent VLF tax rate.

Schwarzenegger proposed that cities, counties, special districts and redevelopment agencies make a two-year contribution to solve the state’s budget deficit of $1.3 billion each year.

In exchange, he secured support for a constitutional amendment with revenue and mandate protections for cities, counties and special districts, including a permanent elimination of the Vehicle License Fee backfill and replacement with property tax revenue to cities and counties, excepting the two-year state budget contributions, the Coleman Advisory Services analysis said.

But sales tax appears to be $204,118 lower in revenues than expected.

Because of previous Council decisions, swimming pool admissions will be up $114,800 and rents, leases and royalties will be $40,000 better than expected.

In many cases, the city is getting higher bills just to maintain the current level of services, Glasser said. For instance, Martinez’s share of Contra Costa County’s animal services is $5,600 higher.

Because of the Martinez Police Department’s active recruiting for new officers, polygraph examinations, psychological testing and background checks costs are up, at $5,400, $7,200 and $32,400 respectively, he said. And the Council approved a mid-contract salary increase for officers that is costing $720,000, requested to help the city add more officers and have a better chance to keep the current members of the police force.

Support services’ standby pay is $9,500 more than budgeted. The city’s share of a Bay Area-wide radio communication service is $2,988 higher, and a one-time radio upgrade is costing $33,200.

Dispatcher and patrol officer overtime will cost a combined additional $100,000.

In response to residents’ and the Council’s concerns about the current lack of a School Resource Officer, Police Chief Manjit Sappal said that position will be filled as more officers are hired to fill vacancies. In addition, Sappal is looking at making some organization changes, too.

The Council has backed a staff request to beef up the economic development and community development department, and the long-awaited General Plan update will cost $50,000 more than anticipated, according to Glasser’s report.

In addition, staff is asking for adjustments in the way the department is staffed, which will cost another $49,211. Director Christina Ratcliffe is recommending the city add a city planner and an assistant planner, but delete a senior planner’s position and reduce consultant costs by $71,676.

The city’s planning staff was robust before the Great Recession, after which positions were slashed. Only recently has the city began rebuilding. Ratcliff has been working the front desk instead of going out and meeting with city business people, and said that gave her insight as to the type of staffing the department needs.

For instance, if a prospective business owner wanted to open a company in an inappropriate zone, a city employee needs to provide that person with information about areas zoned for that type of business, she said.

In addition, new state mandates and multiple anticipated requirements could put Martinez in jeopardy if it doesn’t comply, Ratcliffe said.

While the Recreation Community Services also will be spending $102,040 more than anticipated, much of those costs will be offset by various fees and the city’s recycling fund, according to Glasser’s report.

Internet services and other technological costs also are increasing, and will cost the city $18,000 more than budgeted.

The city’s increased legal activity has increased costs $50,000, with more expenses to come, Glasser said.

Public Works will ask for changes in its staffing, adding a park caretaker level II, a person who would be experienced in ballfield and playing field maintenance so the city’s Waterfront Park enhancements and about a dozen new or upgraded fields in its other parks don’t decline.

This person also would be responsible for other maintenance, and would be qualified to train other employees to improve their expertise.

The city’s water system staffing would account for an additional $43,500 cost, changing an Account Tech 1 from a part time to a full time position.

Martinez has received several requests for 2018-19 community grant funding, and the subcommittee agreed with the staff’s suggestion to stay within the grants’ $10,000 budget.

Some organizations elected not to seek city funding in the coming year – The Court Appointed Special Advocates of Contra Costa County, Boys and Girls Club and Alhambra High Grad Night.

A few submitted requests at the same rate that was approved previously – Loaves and Fishes of Contra Costa, which asked for $1,000 for its dining hall meals Juvenile Hall Auxiliary, which wants $1,000 for its post-detention workforce development program to give job skills to youth who have been detained; College Park High Grad Night, which asked for $500; Hospice Foundation of the East Bay Tree of Lights Ceremony, which repeated its past request for $500.

Meals on Wheels, which received $3,500 through a separate vote when it lost federal funding, asked for that amount through the city grants. Sea Scouts, which is restoring the ship All American, asked for $2,500 instead of $1,200; Worth a Dam, which puts on the city’s Beaver Festival, doubled its request to $2,000; Contra Costa Historical Society asked for $1,500 instead of its previous $1,000; and Martinez Historical Society asked for $1,250 instead of $1,000.

The subcommittee recommended maintaining the awards at the previous level, which would make $1,850 available to Meals on Wheels.

The subcommittee’s recommendation will be presented to the full Council at the 7 p.m. June 20 meeting in Martinez City Hall, 525 Henrietta St.

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