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Measure F Sales Tax Softening Blow During Slow Economy

Oversight committee releases its annual report, complete with allotments for the 2012-13 fiscal year. What projects do you believe should get Measure F funds in the future?

Novato's economic recovery is going pretty darn well, partially because an influx of funds from a voter-approved sales tax increase that is softening the blow on city services.

A volunteer committee that oversees funds from Measure F, a five-year, half-cent sales tax boost ratified by voters in November 2010,  said the $4.1 million in revenue and interest generated in the measure's first year was $1.1 million more than budgeted. The Measure F Oversight/Citizens Finance Committee, chaired by Cristina Mackenzie, released an annual report on Tuesday that goes over what money has been spent on thus far and what will be funded for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

The largest chunk of money — $594,000 — will go toward deficit reduction, which was one of the key objectives mentioned in the ballot language two years ago.

Novato City Manager Michael Frank said he's thankful the voters approved the measure because the funds are coming in handy at a critical time.

"Measure F has been a godsend," he said. "After layoffs and service reductions in every department, the revenue has prevented further cuts. It has allowed the organization and council the time needed to discuss long term organizational and fiscal sustainability. These discussions are occurring through this fiscal year, and we welcome the community’s input into these important policy decisions."

Frank said the Novato City Council has been cautious about the use of the Measure F monies because the revenue stream sunsets in 2016 and because the city staff has not completed its longterm fiscal plan.

"I want to thank the members of the Measure F Citizen Oversight Committee who have worked diligently to make sure the monies are spent appropriately," he said.  

Here is the funding breakdown for the next fiscal year:

  • Deficit reduction, $594,000
  • Economic development, $310,000
  • Novato Response Team (Novato PD), $128,000
  • Public works and maintenance staff, $103,000
  • Administrative customer service, $73,000
  • Parks & Rec after-school program, $20,000

The report also said $220,000 was spent on maintenance employees and police vehicles during the tail end of the 2011-12 fiscal year, right after Measure F money started trickling in.

Committee vice chair David Bentley, the chief financial officer for the North Marin Water District, credited city staff members Brian Cochran, Dane Wadle and Cathy Capriola for handling the heaviest work for the committee and said the city is on the right track.

"All the individual members have different perspectives on the direction we shoudl be going, but I'm pleased with how the city is doing and the progress it is making," Bentley said. "... I'd like to think we can put a little English on what they're doing at the city and share what the community thinks is important, but we all have our particular areas we're looking at really closely. Overall the process is working."

In a letter attached to the report, the committee wrote that it "believes that the (City) Council should adopt a fiscal sustainability plan in 2013 that provides the city with a balanced budget by fiscal year 2015-2016 when the Measure F tax sunsets. We urge the council to make this your top priority over the next fiscal year."

See the attached full report.

What's your reaction? Is the money being directed to the right places? Would you like to thank the volunteers on the advisory committee?

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Mark Schoenbaum September 26, 2012 at 07:58 PM
I'd like to see a break down by: - salaries - pension contributions/benefits - consultants
Just My Opinion September 26, 2012 at 08:15 PM
It is my understanding that salaries and pensions do not come out of this money so that wouldn't make a difference.
Mark Schoenbaum September 27, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Do you just make up garbage, Jim L? Where do you think the money is spent? There is nothing in the ordinance that prevents spending on salaries and pensions. How do you think they spend $103,000 on "Public works and maintenance staff"? It does not say "Public works equipment and materials".
SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 September 27, 2012 at 02:01 AM
I attended a Forum last week titled "Choosing The Future We Want" held by high density advocates, one being Bob Brown ,who is currently being paid by our tax dollars working in our Planning Dept. When the question was asked, "Corporate nonprofit housing does not pay any real estate taxes, how is that going to be fiscally sustainable?" Bob Brown who was on the panel, started talking about income taxes. It is important to know that the high density low income housing industry/corporate nonprofits do not pay any real estate taxes; no fire, no police, no city, no county or no school tax, yet can make millions in income each year off of rents, ( many of which is paid by our tax dollars) yet use our infrastructure. So the question remains; How will our city be fiscally sustainable with these high density low income housing mandates? The answer is: it can't----unless we tax ourselves time and time again and allow the corporate nonprofits to make millions a year off of all of us, including the poor. Would we have needed Measure F if Wyndover and Bay Vista paid "their fair share of real estate taxes?" The city would have up to approx $750,000 if they had.
Jim L September 27, 2012 at 02:02 AM
Mark, You have some kind of problem if you think I posted that comment. The record will show I was in a trial all day .
Tina McMillan September 27, 2012 at 06:54 AM
Bob Ratto is now on the Measure F committee. If you read the report they express concern that the economy is not going to change anytime in the near future and as such we need to look at not only spending by revenue streams. Mr. Frank's hiring of a PR person seems questionable at this time. Isn't it possible to keep residents informed using the website and public meetings and to engage more people to participate in committees. For those of us living on the west side of town, I would like to work on a citizen's committee focused on reviving the Square. If Hannah Ranch can look for developers maybe if we come up with someone intent of reviving the Square we might be able to convince its owner that maintaining it as an eyesore and blighted property is not in anyone's best interests. The city has been working on revisions to its municipal code. Why is there code that prevents residential property from being allowed to deteriorate but no similar code regarding commercial property? Many people have speculated the Mr. Chang wants to turn the Square into mixed use retail, commercial and affordable housing. If that is the case then coming up with an equally viable plan that will actually serve the community and make Mr. Chang money seems like a good option. We need a "Revitalize the Square Committee" along with other committees that allow input from concerned residents.
Lloyd September 27, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Quite right Tina. I would gladly join you if "the City" would take a serious approach to this growing problem. Toni, as for high density housing and Mr Brown I seen to recall being told by the City Manager and Council Members that he, Mr. Brown, would not have any oversight, management or direction being his position on this issue was in direct conflict with the Citizen's and stated direction of the City. R U saying that is no longer the case? I recently read the adapted budget for the City. It shows some breakdowns Mark, and although I don't necessarily follow all of it there was some inferences to your question about pensions & salaries that could be disturbing. All have a gr8 day.
Lloyd September 27, 2012 at 03:49 PM
p.s. I would like to thank everyone volunteering there time and energy to the Measure F committee. It speaks volumes of the good work that concerned citizens can provide to our town. On a separate note I was recently back east and noticed that not only do many towns like ours have volunteer firefighters but also have citizen patrols. I am not advocating replacing but perhaps in these difficult times supplementing out public safety departments could be invaluable.
Tina McMillan September 27, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Lloyd's right, A Huge Thank You to the members of the Measure F Oversight Committee! Here is a link to their report: SUBJECT: MEASURE F OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE ANNUAL REPORT: 2011-2012 FISCAL YEAR http://ci.novato.ca.us/agendas/cc092512.htm You have to scroll down the Agenda to find it. It is well worth reading.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr September 27, 2012 at 09:55 PM
As much as I dislke and disagree with the city manager and the city council, they have managed Novato finances pretty well. BUT, Proposition F promised us more police officers. They lied. Where are more police officer? The budget after Prop F included 20 hours of increased police, half of a person. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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