Nov52018

Brown Town Budget Look

by Lou Binninger

Recently, Marysville Manager Marti Brown provided the 155-page City 2018-2019 Budget Draft to keep us informed. In addition to budget numbers it includes proposals and ideas to consider, a glimpse at past expenditures and revenue, a management bent to cut expenses and increase revenues, and an addition of new employees. It also explains 2017-2018 expenditures for the hotly contested 2016 Measure C 1% sales tax increase.

Marti Brown explains that Measure C’s victory led to Standard and Poor’s Bond Rating for Marysville being upgraded from BBB- to A-, a recognition of improved economic health. The rating is helpful when the City desires to borrow money.

The sad fact is that all levels of government are determined to add more debt to the taxpayers. Five bonds (borrowing) were on the recent ballot for Marysville / Yuba County voters to consider.

Brown says the increased sales tax revenue of Measure C allowed the City to address deferred public safety maintenance issues such as replacing vehicles and hiring police officers and fire fighters.

Measure C was a General Tax Measure where the funds could be spent for any purpose. Campaign advertising focused on public safety needs and ignored the main cause of the budget shortfall – the B Street Property purchase with bonds.

Measure C revenues were used in 2017-18 as follows: balance the General Fund - $439,360; hire 3 firefighters - $319,156; police vehicle fleet replacement bond payment - $185,523; hire 2 police officers - $160,230; parks - $20,742; website upgrade - $19,649; finance software - $10,430; for a total of $1.4 million.

The City Budget is described as roughly $15 million with 97 full and part time employees. It includes $9.2 million in the general fund of which more than 25% or $2.5 million is derived from the Measure C’s sales tax revenues. Brown describes this fact as a positive but also “sobering....an important consideration moving forward especially as Measure C’s 2026 expiration date approaches.”

The audit of 2017-18 showed Measure C generated $2.5 million versus a projected $1.4 million. No monies are noted from the Measure F Cannabis Tax in 2018-19 projections but the City Manager is hoping for a “Spring 2019 surprise” if the new cannabis outlet opens near Adventist Hospital.

Brown says the City’s optimism is challenged by unfunded pension liability and health care costs, “ever-looming B Street property bond payment” (approx. $630,000 annually), high commercial vacancy rates, bleak General Fund reserve, keeping pace with market rate salaries, diversifying the City’s income stream and preparing for the expiration of Measure C in 2026.

Under “The Path Forward” numerous revenue generating ideas are offered for councilmembers’ consideration. One is to assess a fee for medical aid and vehicle accident responses by police and fire. That should be an interesting discussion but Brown Town is not the first city to look at this.

Brown proposed the City establish full cost recovery programs for permitting, fees, and inspections. Update and increase all city fees as appropriate and create an “Impact Fee” schedule. Consider illegal control burn fines and billing for vehicle incidents involving negligence.

The budget says the council should re-evaluate the benefit of city assets such as Plumas Lake Golf Course and the Annex Building and consider repurposing or disposing of them. No specific mention is made of the baseball park or how much the taxpayers are subsidizing baseball.

Manager Brown recommends promoting cannabis related business activity to capitalize on Measure F taxes. The cannabis ordinance allows at least two outlets in the City.

Opponents of Measure C said the increased sales tax if passed would never end. The budget proposal says the city needs to plan for expiration of Measure C and consider another ‘Evergreen’ 1% tax in 2022. Opponents of “C” were correct.

The budget document lists instituting new and improved revenue generating programs, a city–wide parking payment program in commercial districts including meter installation and neighborhood permits. Most seasoned Brown Town residents remember parking meters and the city removing them all.

The budget is full of interesting information and ideas on how to save Brown Town. It even suggests drilling wells in the parks since the City cannot afford to pay Cal Water Service (CWS) for water. If the City can do this, can CWS hostages install their own wells to make Brown Town green again?

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