Pools, police, pipes, fire prevention, youth services: fulfilling city needs will take new funding—perhaps $30 million. And that greatly surpasses the dollars flowing into Berkeley’s coffers.
At a 5 p.m. work session on Tuesday, with pro- and anti-military recruiting station crowds chanting below the council chambers’ windows, the City Council delved into the issue of tax money the city might want to raise. The council has until July 8 to put the measures on the ballot for the November election.
Deputy City Manager Lisa Caronna framed the discussion with a word of caution: If there are too many measures before the voters, they may reject all of them.
In 2004, there were multiple ballot measures—a utility users tax increase, a youth services tax, a library tax increase and a paramedic tax increase. “All of the measures failed,” Caronna said.
“We are entering the November 2008 election with national and statewide economic uncertainty,” says a cautionary staff report written by Caronna and Finance Director Bob Hicks. “We are in the middle of a stagnant and declining housing market and the threat of a recession.”
Most members of the public who had come to address the council were at the meeting to advocate for rebuilding the therapeutic warm pool. “It is essential for good health” for the disabled community, Richard Moore said.
“I’m able to stand here because of the warm pool,” Ann Marks told the council.
The warm pool, currently located at Berkeley High, serves primarily disabled and elderly people. In 2000 voters approved a $3.25 million bond measure to rehabilitate the pool, but since that time, the school district decided to demolish the facility. A new pool would cost $15 to $16 million.
Staff estimated the cost for the homeowner whose residence is assessed at $350,000 as $19 to $20 per year. (This would be funded through a general obligation bond; the tax is based on assessed value.)
Others came to the council to advocate for the repair of the neighborhood swimming pools and to suggest that the council might want to float a larger bond that would encompass all of the city’s pools—or widening the scope even more to “multiple forms of recreation,” as one speaker suggested.
Several residents wrote the City Council suggesting it would be more practical to build a swimming pool complex rather than rehabilitating all of the old pools.
At the city’s Feb. 26 meeting the council will take a detailed look at raising taxes for police and fire.
Staff estimates that with an increase in the annual police budget revenue of $3.6 million to $5 million, the city could hire 20 new officers and pay costs for regional compatibility for police radios. This would cost the average homeowner with a 1,900-square-foot lot $90 to $125 per year. (This tax and the ones described below are called “special taxes” and based on the home’s square footage.)
Councilmember Kriss Worthington said he was disappointed that “community-involved police” (CIP) officers were not on the list of proposed new police hires. He said the unanimous council reiterated its support for CIP, described generally as policing where officers walk beats, know residents and merchants and communicate with them easily, and are proactive in stopping crime.
“I also think whether we increase the funding for policing or not, we need to look at the structure of how we spend the money,” Worthington said.
Worthington said he plans to bring CIP back to the council table today (Tuesday) at the Agenda Committee meeting (2:30 p.m. in the Redwood Room 2180 Milvia St.).
Staff is proposing a fire-safety measure “to ensure minimum staffing on all fire suppression companies” to avoid rotating closures, enhance existing emergency medical services, fund disaster preparedness, add a rescue vehicle specialized for structure collapse and add personnel.
The annual cost would be $3.3 million to $4.3 million; the homeowner with a 1,900 square-foot lot would be taxed $83 to $108 per year.
A violence prevention ballot measure would raise a more modest $1.2 million annually and would cost the homeowner with a 1.900 square-foot house about $32.
“I would like to see a bigger chunk of resources dedicated to youth,” Max Anderson told the Planet when reached on Thursday. However, given the mood of local taxpayers, he said it would be better to aim lower.
Rehabilitation of the city’s aging storm water system would cost about $1.5 to $3 million annually and cost the average homeowner $38 to $75.
• The council voted 7-1-1 to refer to staff a request for the purchase of radio frequency measurement equipment and the question of establishing a moratorium on issuing further cell-phone antenna permits until the city’s cell-phone antenna ordinance has been revised. Councilmember Betty Olds abstained and Councilmember Gordon Wozniak voted in opposition.
• The council unanimously approved going to bid for a number of services related to the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative, including a centralized homeless intake system, a program for youth of transitions (18-24-years-old) age, job training for maintenance of newly opened bathrooms, staff to provide services for permanent supportive housing and the “Berkeley host program,” which would provide people to be eyes and ears on the street, observing inappropriate behavior of individuals in shopping areas.
• The council unanimously proclaimed February as Freedom to Marry Month “for equal access to marriage and all of its legal benefits and obligations by all persons, regardless of sex, gender identity or sexual orientation.”
• As reported Friday, the council adopted new language with respect to the Marine Recruiting Station that differentiated between the city’s opposition to the war in Iraq and its respect for those serving in the armed forces and substituted new language into the section of a Jan. 29 council item that called the Marines “unwelcome.”
The new language recognizes the right of the Marine Recruiting Center to locate in Berkeley. Councilmembers Betty Olds and Gordon Wozniak opposed the measure, because the council had turned down a previous motion to issue an apology to the Marines. Councilmembers Worthington, Capitelli, Olds and Wozniak voted in favor of the apology.
Held over until Feb. 26
The council held over until Feb. 26 a resolution sponsored by Worthington that condemned the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico and also held over a council item that would have staff write Canadian officials asking them to provide sanctuary for U.S. military service members living in Canada who are resisting fighting the Iraq War.
They put off until Feb. 26 discussing the police chief’s quarterly report on crime and the Condominium Conversion Ordinance.