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City of Mill Valley Wraps Up Budget Hearings June 26, Invites Community Participation
Posted Date: 6/19/2014

City Hall at 150

Budget Hearings

Monday, June 16, 7:00 pm
Mill Valley City Hall

Wednesday, June 18, 5:00 pm
Mill Valley Community Center

Thursday, June 26 3:00 pm
Mill Valley City Hall

Contact Us or Comment

Join us for the final Budget Hearing on June 26.

The City uses a two-year budget format, with a new two-year budget cycle starting July 1, the beginning of the City’s fiscal year. For residents, business and property owners, the development of a new budget presents an opportunity to make your voice heard about how and where you want your City to spend your tax dollars.

From emergency services provided by our Police and Fire Departments and the myriad forms of programming at our Recreation and Library facilities to tangible projects like road repairs and new bicycle and pedestrian paths, the City’s budget has a vast impact on the day-to-day lives of its residents and business owners.

There are a number of ways for you to provide input into the budget process:

  • Attend one or more of the City Council’s public hearings on the budget. The hearings are set for:
    • Monday, June 16, 7:00 pm – City Hall 
    • Wednesday, June 18, 5:00 pm – Community Center
    • Thursday, June 26 3:00 pm – City Hall 
  • Send written comments via mail: City Manager, 26 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley, CA 94941 or email Please write "2014-16 Budget" in the subject line.

At the hearings, City Manager Jim McCann and Finance Director Eric Erickson will present to the City Council a proposed budget for 2014-2016. That budget will reflect the City Council’s strategic planning process, particularly the identification of “Priority Projects” that drive the allocation of expenses in the budget. For instance, among its 2014-2015 Priority Projects, the Council identified items such as implementation of the City’s new General Plan, commencing construction of the renovation of Miller Avenue, implementation of a comprehensive Communications Plan and construction of several community serving capital improvement projects, and implementing measures to address long-term pension and retirement benefit liability costs.

In 2013-2014, the City of Mill Valley had revenues of nearly $37.5 million, with 39 percent, $13.5 million, of that money coming from property taxes and another 27 percent coming from user fees for facilities like the Golf Course and the Community Center or fees associated with building permits. While sales tax accounts for 8 percent of the City’s 2013-2014 revenue, another 17 percent came from taxes on things like business licenses, hotels and the Municipal Services Tax (MST), as well sewer service fees.

The City is restricted in how it can spend those latter two sources of revenue. Funding from the MST, which was first approved by voters in 1987 and currently generates $1.2 million a year, is restricted to paying for road repair and maintenance and operating the City’s Vegetation Management Program (more info on each below). The bulk of the City’s sewer fee revenue – nearly $5.1 million in 2013-2014 – must be spent on operating, repairing and upgrading the City’s aging sewer system.

Here’s a pie chart reflecting the City’s 2013-2014 revenue sources:

2013-2014 Revenues Pie Chart

In 2013-2014, the City had operating expenses of approximately $26.5 million and total expenses of $37.5 million, which includes equipment upgrades as well as the renovation of facilities like the Community Center, the Boyle Park tennis courts and the construction of new facilities like bicycle and pedestrian paths along Camino Alto and Sycamore Avenue.

Public safety commands a sizable portion of the City’s operating expenses, with the Police Department accounting for approximately $5.3 million and the Fire Department making up another $4.6 million.

Here’s a pie chart reflecting the City’s 2013-2014 operating expenses:

2013-2014 Expenses Pie Chart

Day-to-Day Impacts of the Budget
While the City’s budget has many components, you’re able to see your tax dollars in action on any given day, from use of City services and facilities to the great programming being churned out regularly by our Recreation Department and Library.

East Blithedale Construction 1 v150Capital Improvement Projects
Perhaps the most tangible examples of daily budget impact are Capital Improvement Projects (CIPs), in which the City sets aside money in the budget specifically to maintain, repair or replace a physical component of the City. In the previous two-year budget cycle, those CIP allocations included:

  • Annual Street/Sewer Rehabilitation – This annual program costs around $1.5 mil for street and $1 mil for sewer repairs and rehabilitation. Last year, Vasco Drive, Azalea Druve and Hazel Avenue received road section repairs, replacing asphalt concrete pavement and traffic markings, televising of pipes, repair of sewer pipes, storm drainage rehabilitation, plus other work.
  • East Blithedale Avenue overhaul – In September 2013, the City finished a 10-week Street Maintenance and Sewer Rehabilitation Project on one of the two main arteries in Mill Valley. The work included new sewer mains, manhole covers and traffic striping, as well as a cost-effective surface treatment that will extend the life of the pavement and improve ride quality. The City spent $700,000 in sewer rehabilitation and $100,000 in pavement repairs and scrub seal.
  • Mill Valley Aquatics and Fitness Center renovation – Over six weeks in late summer 2013, one of the City’s busiest facilities received its first major renovation since it opened in 2001. The $192,000 renovation project included repairs to the center's walls and retractable roof, resurfacing of the swimming pool deck, lobby and locker room floors, and waterslide maintenance.
  • Boyle Park tennis courts – The City allocated $357,000 for the renovation of its aging tennis courts at Boyle Park, with the Boyle Park Renovation Committee leading a campaign to raise an additional $256,000 for the project.
  • Bike-ped paths – To provide safer transit to and from the multi-use path for bicyclists and pedestrians, the City is building a pair of bicycle and pedestrian improvement projects – along Camino Alto in front of The Redwoods and along Sycamore Avenue between Camino Alto and the Mill Valley-Sausalito Multi-Use Pathway. The projects cost $468,464 and $606,914, respectively, with funding coming from a variety of sources, including the Federal Safe Routes to School Program funding, Measure A sales tax revenue and Federal Transportation Enhancement funding.

Chipper at 150Services
Services are also a huge part of the City’s budget, particularly from the Police and Fire Departments. For instance, the nearly $9.9 million combined budget of these departments not only includes outstanding response to incidents, it also features a bevy of services designed to prevent many of those incidents form occurring in the first place. They include:

  • Vegetation Management Program – The City’s multi-faceted program is all about reducing the fire-fueling vegetation that surrounds and is woven throughout Mill Valley. With an annual budget of $300,000 that is entirely funded by the Municipal Services Tax, the program includes a host of services designed to help property owners understand how to reduce the fire fuels around them. Click here for more info on the program.
  • Vacation Watch – MVPD has created a system by which residents can alert them when they are going out of town and request extra patrols of their homes while they are away.
  • RSVP Parking Program – Designed to make it easier for Mill Valley and Southern Marin residents to shop, eat and visit downtown Mill Valley, the RSVP program allows residents to park up to the maximum allowable time posted (usually two hours) at any of the City’s 400 parking meters, seven days a week from 9 am-6 pm.
  • Communications – The Council identified improving its two-way communications with the community as a Priority Project, and the City has taken major steps towards doing just that in recent years. That includes webcasting all public hearings of the Council, Planning Commission and Parks & Recreation Commission, both live and archived and allowing residents to submit comments during the meeting via email. The Communications Group recently posted a survey about how residents and business owners want to communicate with the City, and received more than 1,000 responses.

For those interested in top-notch cultural, educational and recreational programming, the City of Mill Valley boasts a roster of workshops, camps, and arts and entertainment events that rivals offerings of much larger cities in the Bay Area.

That roster includes:

The City of Mill Valley’s Budget Philosophy
The City Council has identified “prudent fiscal policies and practices” among its nine Core Values. For the 2012-2014 and the coming 2014-2016 budget cycle, that means strategically containing and reducing the City’s costs associated with providing pensions and medical benefits to retired employees.  

The budget process is the formal method the City uses to establish its goals, program priorities and desired service levels for the upcoming fiscal period, and identifies the resources necessary to achieve them. The budget is a key policy document and a principal component of City governance, and we invite residents to learn more about the budget, the budgeting process, and to participate in budget hearings.

Councilmembers value a balanced, inclusive, and open approach to decision-making processes and encourage citizen participation. Councilmembers will conduct an open and inclusive budgeting process, and invite comments and different perspectives throughout.  We thank you in advance for your constructive input to help guide the budget process, and we look forward to hearing from you either in-person at the upcoming meetings or via written comments.