Two year budget is $134 million; concerns over spending on affordable housing
Budget talks can often be contentious, but at the June 19 meeting of the Windsor Town Council, the budget and the capitol improvements plan both passed with no comments from the public and only minor outrage from the dais.
The 2019-21 proposed budget consists of two one-year fiscal budgets and features $134 million in appropriations, including a $102 million operating budget, a $5 million debt service budget and a $26.6 million capital expenditures budget. In addition to a two-year operating budget, a five-year 2019-24 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) was also proposed.
After an initial review of budget proposals at its May 15 meeting, the council directed staff to prepare an analysis and proposal for the potential of four additional items to the budget: the creation of a Town Sustainability Coordinator position; incorporating conversion of town street lights to LED lighting; incorporating conversion of the Wilson Ranch soccer lights to LED; and funding for assistance to the Town Green Village Association (TGVA) for care and maintenance of things like sidewalks, trees and street fronts.
In addition, since May 15, staff determined there were two additional items that had been erroneously left out. One was a request from then police department for a new motorcycle and the other was a change in the budget for street resurfacing.
According to interim administrative services director Janine Peterson, while the council needed to be aware of these items, they would not have particular impact on the bottom line, as the motorcycle purchase price of $30,000 is easily covered by the existing vehicle abatement fund and the change in the street resurfacing recommended funding (from $860,000 to $1.2 million) is contingent on adequate funds being available.
Staff recommended that the sustainability coordinator position be included in the updated budget, and the estimated $60,000 cost be covered by reducing the parking enforcement budget by $25,000 and reducing the budget for special event promotions for the rest.
The sustainability coordinator would develop and administer programs that address climate change and our impact on the environment. The staff proposed a revision to the existing Environmental Program Manager job description that allocates 50% to sustainability. Staff recommends the addition of an Environmental Program Specialist I/II to backfill duties such as water audits, tracking, data collection and agency coordination for both water conservation and air quality/GHG emission reductions.
For the general replacement of streetlights in town with LED’s staff’s recommendation was to wait until a cost neutral plan can be found. They are currently exploring such a program from PG&E. For the Wilson Ranch LED replacement proposal, staff couldn’t justify the cost-to-benefit ratio. The cost to replace them would run approximately $800,000 while current energy costs run about $6,500 a year, according to Peterson, meaning it would take almost 100 years to see the payoff from the switch come to fruition.
Finally, the staff generally rejected the ask from the TGVA, though it did recommend the town be responsible for assisting with tree replacement and maintenance and sidewalk cleaning.
When it came time for discussion, no one from the public came forward to comment, to the surprise of Mayor Dominic Foppoli.
Councilmembers had their own set of comments, with Sam Salmon stating his concerns that the budget did too much for economic development and not enough for affordable housing.
“I’m unsupportive of the budget as it emphasizes economic development. I don’t think we’ve seen the bang for the buck,” Salmon said. “I’m much more concerned with housing as it relates to sustainability and green house gas emissions and how it relates to benefits for the community. I understand economic development brings in tax money, I’m just not sure how much ... We have to focus on providing (housing) so people can continue to live here and I just don’t see it in this budget.”
Councilmember Esther Lemus allowed that she too had been startled by the apparent drop in affordable housing funding, but that it was explained to her that this was due to all of those funds being spent in the last fiscal year.
“I understand now that we are expecting $2 million in fees when Vintage Oaks breaks ground and so those funds will go back into the pipeline. I hope that will be sooner rather than later,” she said.
Foppoli voiced his disagreement with Salmon over the relative importance of economic development, and also went on to say he supported the addition of the sustainability coordinator position, but that he was concerned about taking a chunk of the money from the special event promotions budget. He recalled that part of the reason the Symetra golf tour chose Windsor was because of the town’s ability to commit funds immediately.
A compromise was found in changing a current budget line item listed as the Sagan Fondo Tour, to Sagan Fondo Tour/Special Event Promotions, as the Sagan Fondo Tour will not be happening in the coming year, thus freeing up those funds for use as needed.
Vice Mayor Deb Fudge was pleased that the sustainability coordinator position made the final cut.
“I want to thank staff for all their work on the sustainability coordinator position. If we all as a world don’t reduce greenhouse gases to net zero in 12 years, we’ll be in trouble as humans within 100 years. This position will be looking at everything the town does to help reduce emission and they will create policy to ensure the town is marching in the same direction. It’s a super important position that will also show the community our commitment and also help the community come along with us in our goal to save the planet,” she said.
Ultimately, the board would vote 3-1-1 to pass the budget (councilmember Bruce Okrepkie was absent and Salmon voted against) and 4-1-0 to pass the CIP.