May 18 2011

PCA Editorial: Out of Sight, Out of Mind! The City Budget

A PCA Editorial urging the Council to videotape budget and CIP meetings and consider funding priorities with all residents in mind

Every year the Piedmont City Council goes through a budget approval process to determine how Piedmont taxes will be spent. Instead of being held in City Council chambers in City Hall, the pivotal initial budget “workshop” meeting will be held on Saturday, May 21, at 9:00 am in the Piedmont Police Department Emergency Operations Center  (EOC) on Highland Avenue.  Meetings held outside of the City Council chambers are rarely videotaped or broadcast.  The only way that Piedmont residents can see and hear the  workshop discussion is to attend the meeting.  (Two prior CIP Committee meetings held in the EOC were not videotaped, as well.)

At the workshop, Department heads and the City Administrator will present their budget requests and respond to questions from the Council.   Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) recommendations will also be discussed.   Further information, direction or explanation of specific expenditures may be requested by the Council from staff.  The public may address the Council or raise questions on a limited basis during the workshop.

Due to previous major events impacting the City’s finances, this year’s budget is important.  Various items having an impact on the budget include:

  • The bailout of the Piedmont Hills Utility Undergrounding District ($2.2 million) leaves only $573,000 in the CIP program, with no additional CIP funding anticipated for 2011-12
  • Havens turf field and the School Mates facility ($1.2 million) part of the CIP in the prior year
  • A 50% subsidy ($380,000) with general fund monies for the pool due to City takeover of the Swim Club
  • $600,000 in proposed capital improvements for the pool listed on the CIP
  • Coaches Field:  $653,000 has been placed in a savings account for lights and artificial turf
  • Moraga Canyon Projects:  $53,000 remains from $148,000 allocated  EIR expenses 

During recent years, “extra money” in the CIP fund has been spent largely on youth recreational facilities.  But a major question is how do the majority of Piedmont residents want their tax dollars spent? Considering, that 50 percent of Piedmont households have no children, and there are a large number  of older residents, one question is: are all citizens being considered fairly in the priorities for expenditures?

The School Board, making a recent decision to extend the additional parcel tax, discussed the possibility of providing an exclusion from the parcel tax for residents over 65. This exclusion is offered by most school districts in Northern California.   However, a member of the Board suggested the large number of persons over 65 in Piedmont may mean it would be impossible to exclude them and have sufficient funds to finance the schools, confirming both the large number and importance of those residents in the community without K-12 children.

The Piedmont City Council would be serving its citizens well by ensuring that all City meetings are videotaped and broadcast and by considering all residents in its decisions on funding priorities.


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