Jun 3 2015

Citizens Ask the City Council to Fund Capital Projects

-City Council held its First Public Hearing on the 2015-16 Budget June 1 – Second Public Hearing will be June 15 –

City Council Meeting Report by Cauveri Suresh, a Sophomore Barnard College Student


At Monday’s City Council meeting, the Council voted to adopt two items, Measure BB and addition of the Recreation Center Master Plan to the Facilities Maintenance Fund. The Council also held a public hearing on Piedmont’s 2015-16 Budget, although this will not be voted on until after the second public hearing, to be held June 15.

Council voted unanimously to adopt the Alameda County Transportation Measure BB resolution, allowing the city to receive its allocation of funding. The Measure  was approved by voters in 2014. As stated by Paul Benoit, the City Administrator, “the measure extends an existing one-half cent sales tax and augments it with an additional half-cent through 2045.”

Before the vote, Mayor Fujioka stated her strong support for the resolution. “It will be bringing in significant monies to the City of Piedmont, I believe over $800,000 for our sidewalks and streets” said Fujioka.

The Council also voted unanimously to add to the budget the four projects put forward by the Capital Improvement Committee (CIP):  the Linda/Kingston Triangle, a Corporation Yard Vehicle Storage Structure, an assessment and consequent renovation or replacement of Piedmont’s Aquatic Facility and Master Plan, and a Community Hall Plaza Master Plan.

The Linda/Kingston Triangle has been the focus of the Piedmont Beautification Foundation’s (PBF) fundraising effort this spring and PBF President Deborah Van Nest spoke at Monday’s meeting, advocating City funding of $175,000 for the project. Mayor Fujioka also expressed support, saying that its importance lay partially in the public/private relationship in its funding.

Recreation Commissioner Betsy Anderson, along with community members Suzie Strubell and Liz Barons, all spoke to advocate for the assessment of the Aquatics facility as an essential addition to community development in Piedmont.

Council members reacted well to these remarks. “Recreations facilities in this community fall under core functions,” said council member McBain. Along the same lines, Fujioka said, “Recreation is one of the few, if not the only, department we have that pays for itself.”

Councilwoman Teddy Gray King said, “There really should always be momentum on this—we should always be making the city better.”

Discussions of the budget featured frequent cautions to remain conservative.

Bill Hosler, Chair of the Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee said that although projections show the City to be on solid footing, it is wisest to be cautious and put away any excess revenues. He used the real estate market as an example of this necessity.  Speaking in regard to the Real Property Transfer Tax, he said, “It’s been eight years since the last peak of the real estate cycle and they tend to last seven to nine years historically, so these projections assume sort of steady-as-she-goes.”

Although the level of Transfer Tax in recent years has been running higher than the 2.8 million his committee projects, it is an important safety precaution for the budget and excess has been put aside into capital funds. Council member McBain applauded the conservative budgeting of the Transfer Tax. “Numbers can look a lot stronger based on a good year,” he said.

“We hear your frugality message loud and clear,” Fujioka told Hosler. “We are just recovering from the big recession and we are trying to put away some monies into various funds so that we can save for the future.”

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