One of the biggest issues facing the city of Davis is how it is going to close its current shortfall between revenue and unfunded liabilities as well as infrastructure needs, currently estimated at roughly $8.5 million annually.
The next discussion, according to City Manager Mike Webb, is next week: “Yes, we’ve had it on the long range for the 19th to follow up with Council on the revenue measure discussion.”
The question before the council is which direction they want to go with the type of tax, the amount, and what the tax will fund.
Mr. Webb told the Vanguard, “During their last discussion the Council indicated an interest in the possibility of three different measures, but nothing is final. On December 19th I expect the discussion to continue.”
He indicated, “We will present Council with follow up information from their last discussion, with focus on what projects or priorities the City might pursue with the various ballot measure(s). Fundamentally, this will be an opportunity for the Council to further its discussion on the topic and to identify additional information that may be instrumental to their final decision on what measure(s) to pursue, at what amounts, and for what priorities.”
Some of the key areas of focus will be creating funds to fill the fund gap on parks. Currently the city is only taking in $49 for its parks tax, when actual costs run about four times that and
unfunded needs perhaps run even higher.
Many believe that the council back in 2012 erred by not raising the parks tax above $49 when they had the chance.
City Councilmember Will Arnold told the Vanguard, “We need to renew the parks tax at absolute minimum. I believe a doubling of the current $49 tax would be prudent.”
But parks is not the only the money that the council needs. The city has long had a need to add revenue for roads, bike paths and sidewalks. To their credit, the council has carved out about $4 million per year for infrastructure needs, but they probably need at least $8 million and perhaps as much as $10 million.
Councilmember Arnold told the Vanguard, “I also believe a similar-sized measure dedicated to transportation infrastructure is desirable. So as I said at the last meeting in which this came up, $99 for parks and $99 for roads (or “potholes” to be alliterative).”
The wild card is a potential $50 parcel tax that could fund other needs. They are looking at a potential $50 for social services. A $50 tax for social services puts the tax ask to potentially $300 per year.
But as Will Arnold pointed out during their October discussion, “if Robb Davis puts his talents behind the $50, it passes easily.”
He told the Vanguard, “I am also not closing the door to the mayor’s call for a smaller tax to address homelessness, though further discussion and detail is needed.”
This weekend the Vanguard raised the specter that the city could use some of that $50 for an affordable housing fund, something that Will Arnold said seemed like a good idea, but indicated he would defer to Mayor Davis on whether he’s open to that.
Mayor Robb Davis told the Vanguard, “When the RDA [Redevelopment Agency] ended, the City lost over $2 million per year for its affordable housing programs. A $50/year parcel tax would bring in about $1.5 million per year, and while that does not fill the gap, it provides critical resources for affordable housing and services for homeless and vulnerable individuals.”
He believes, “The revenue from this tax will provide a predictable revenue stream for programs that have had to rely on uncertain or one-time grants. That stream will enable us to expand the pathways to employment program. It will enable us to expand services for (the) emergency shelter year round, add critical physical and mental health services to the Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter, and enable us to continue and expand bridge housing vouchers or create a housing voucher program of our own. Such voucher programs allow us to place formerly homeless individuals into already existing units.”
Mayor Davis added that “the revenue can support our housing trust fund to help maintain existing affordable housing stock in the city. The trust fund can also be leveraged to build new affordable units if and when land dedication sites come forward. Finally, this revenue can contribute to expanding support to agencies that provide critical services via our existing Community Development Block Grants (CDBG).
“The fact that this tax can provide for such varied services and infrastructure is because these services are delivered largely through non-profits and with the strong support of Yolo County Housing. It will enable us to significantly expand existing services provided via County support, leveraging those resources for greater impact,” he said.
Finally, the mayor added, “the revenue comes at a time when the City is developing critical impact assessment metrics and progress tracking systems to assure that all expenditures are done in an accountable way, with a focus on outcomes and impacts, not merely outputs.”
While $50 is probably not enough to address both affordable housing needs and homeless issues, it is a start. And combined with other monies it could go a long way toward helping to resolve some long-time challenges for the city, now strapped for cash in the post-RDA world.
The council doesn’t have to make their final decision this week, however, As City Manager Mike Webb, noted, “For a June ballot the Council will need to make a final decision on what to put on the ballot by their first meeting in February, which leaves the January meetings to allow for further follow-up with Council as needed.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting