With an emphasis on high quality services, responsible fiscal practices and substantial investment in community programs, facilities and infrastructure, the Mill Valley City Council approved the City’s 2014-2016 budget on June 26.
“We have a budget!” Mayor Stephanie Moulton-Peters said at the conclusion of the Thursday afternoon hearing.
The approval came on the heels of three public hearings over the past 10 days, and was a reflection of the City Council’s strategic planning process, particularly its identification of “Priority Projects” that drive the allocation of expenses in the budget. Priority Projects are developed by the City Council in advance of the Two Year Budget and are based on requests from the community and recommendations from City Staff.
“Putting a successful City budget together is a balancing act,” Mayor Moulton-Peters said. “The Council and City Staff work together to balance public safety services, maintenance of critical infrastructure and financial health, as well as Library and Recreation services and the new facilities that the community wants. We work hard to stretch our budget dollars as far as they can go.”
The City is projecting revenues of $39 million in the coming July 1-to-June 30 fiscal year, up slightly from nearly $37.5 million in 2013-2014. That’s largely driven by a projected increase in three sources of revenue:
- Property tax revenue, which accounts for 36% of the City budget, is expected to be up 1 percent and 4.5 percent over the next two fiscal years.
- Sales tax revenue, which represents 8% of the City’s budget, is projected to rise by 3.2% and 5.1% over the next two years.
- User fees, which make up 28% of the budget, will see a jump, largely by a projected 21% spike in revenue generated by popular programs offered by the Recreation Department.
“We’re in a different place now than we were a few years ago from an economic standpoint,” City Manager Jim McCann told the Council at the outset of the budget process. “Economic conditions are more stable and the future is brighter than it was a few years ago. We can address pressing issues related to infrastructure repair, facility improvements, equipment replacement and accumulated obligation and liabilities associated with employee benefits.”
With those modest but much-needed projected jumps in revenue, the Council agreed to take new funding steps to address some critical issues, including:
OPEB. The City Council committed to fully funding the actuarially determined Annual Required Contribution (ARC) associated with the medical benefits the City provides to its retired employees, which fall into a category commonly referred to as OPEB, or Other Post-Employment Benefits. The ARC funding is approximately $865,000 each year. Fully funding the ARC pays current charges, stops the long-term benefit liability from growing and will, over time, eliminate previously accumulated liabilities. A portion of this ARC funding will go to supplement the already established $7.2 million OPEB Irrevocable Trust.
Capital Improvement Projects. More than $2.4 million has been set aside over the next two years for 57 projects related to City roads, buildings and facilities, such as the renovation of the Boyle Park tennis courts, the construction of the Bayfront Park Boat Dock, the placement of bike-friendly “sharrows” along Sycamore Avenue and the construction of a downtown public bathroom. In addition to projects funded by the City’s General Fund, nearly $19.3 million from other funding sources is earmarked over the next two years for predominantly street and sewer improvements, including approximately $5 million in sewer line replacement and an estimated $14 million Miller Avenue Streetscape Project. In 2014 some interim upgrades will be implemented on Miller, with construction commencing in in 2015..
Road Repairs. The City is also dedicating more than $2.2 million to improve road conditions from a variety of sources including Federal Gas Tax, Road Impact Fees, and the City’s Municipal Services Tax (MST), which was first approved by voters in 1987. The MST currently generates $1.2 million a year, $900,000 of which goes towards road repairs and the General Fund. To bolster road repairs, the City Council elected to budget additional resources from the General Fund for road work and approved the purchase of a new pavement grinder and striping equipment which will enable City Road Maintenance crews to accomplish small to mid size repairs more quickly and cost effectively.
The 2014-2016 budget also includes a number of smaller but equally important allocations, including:
- Communications. The approved budget maintains funding for the City’s enhanced communications efforts, which kicked off earlier this year, and looks to expand upon it, including setting aside $75,000 for a new City website.
- Flood Control. In addition to the City’s traditional $35,000 allocated for annual creek clearing, the City plans to seek an additional $25,000 from the Flood Control District for more aggressive debris removal, and is also setting aside $35,000 to assess flood conditions along Arroyo Corte Madera del Presidio Creek and develop drainage improvement plans.
- Emergency Access. Also included in the budget is approximately $125,000 for fire access improvement projects and work on the City’s network of historic Steps, Lanes and Paths.
The budget is a key policy document and a principal component of City governance. The budget process is the formal method the City uses to implement its goals, program priorities and desired service levels for the upcoming fiscal period, and identifies the resources necessary to achieve them.
The final budget document is in progress, and hard and electronic copies will be available in July. For more information and to download documents related to the budget process, please view the City Council budget hearings that took place on June 16 and 26 on our Webcasting and Streaming Archive page.