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?