November Pleasant Hill Mayor's Message
Oct 31, 2016 10:42AM
● By Sue Noack
Sue Noack, Pleasant Hill Mayor
Election Day is almost here. Many of you vote by mail or absentee ballot, while others go to the polls like I do. Whatever the method, it is important to vote. Local items are at the very end of the ballot, so don’t forget to go through the whole thing. Our local measure is Measure K, which has generated much conversation on social media over the past month. I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify some of the issues that have been raised.
Measure K is a half-cent sales tax measure that would generate over $4 million in annual revenue for 20 years. When the city council voted unanimously to place the measure on the ballot, our intent was to use the revenue for city infrastructure needs and building a new library. The money would NOT be used for employee salaries and benefits.
Prior to placement of the ballot measure, the city’s adopted long-term financial plan identified sufficient revenue to meet its obligations with respect to employee salaries and benefits. There is neither need nor intent for the city to use any of the Measure K funds for this purpose.
The city has lost a total of $20 million in the past ten years due to state takeaways. In 2011, the state dissolved our Redevelopment Agency. As a direct result, the city lost $11.6 million. In addition, since 1992, the state has taken money from cities to pay for its K-12 education obligations. The loss to Pleasant Hill from this takeaway has been $8.45 million in the last ten years alone. This is important because much of this revenue could have been used to fund the construction of a new library and address deferred maintenance on city infrastructure, including neighborhood streets, sidewalks, and storm drains.
Pleasant Hill Library is now 55 years old and has numerous physical constraints and structural issues, including seismic and ADA compliance, a leaking roof, asbestos in the ceilings and walls, no sprinkler system for fire suppression, and insufficient heating and air-conditioning.
Based on information provided by the county librarian in 2014 that it would cost more than $10 million to upgrade and modernize the library, the PH Library Task Force concluded that renovation of the current building was not a viable or cost effective option.
The task force has recommended building a 25,000 square foot library to meet community needs. Based on recent library construction costs in the Bay Area, the estimated cost is approximately $600 per square foot, which amounts to $15 million. Using anticipated revenues from the measure, the city could finance the library up front. Including principal and interest, this would result in a total cost of around $20 million over a 20 year period or about $1 million per year in debt payments. Even if the library construction costs were as much as $20 million, the total cost to the city would be $26 million or $1.3 million each year in repayments over a 20 year period.
Measure K is expected to provide more than $4 million in annual revenue for 20 years. This means that approximately $3 million per year would go to streets, storm drain maintenance, and sidewalk improvements.
The city council’s willingness to put roadwork as a priority is evidenced in this two-year budget cycle. As a result of a positive economy and sound fiscal management, the city was able to include an additional $3 million to be spent over the next two years on street resurfacing projects. However, even this additional expenditure is not enough to put a dent in the $15 million of deferred maintenance on neighborhood streets.
During every two-year budget adoption process, the city’s budget committee and city council conduct meetings to solicit community input on budget priorities. These meetings and workshops are open, and public involvement is encouraged. Furthermore, the entire budget and capital improvement plans can be found on the city web page at www.pleasanthillca.org/finance.
Measure K calls for an independent citizens’ oversight committee, mandatory financial audits, and annual reports to the community on how funds are being spent. These requirements ensure transparency and accountability by the city council and city staff.
It’s important to point out that a significant number of shoppers (and users of the library) come from outside Pleasant Hill. Measure K guarantees that they would pay their fair share of the additional revenue generated from the increased half-cent sales tax. This reduces the burden on residents significantly compared to a bond measure, which would be paid for entirely by Pleasant Hill homeowners.
Also, because Measure K is a sales tax, it does not apply to groceries and prescription drugs, which lessens the burden on seniors in our community. For more information and FAQs on Measure K, you can go to www.pleasanthillca.org/MeasureK.