City Council Round Up: City prepares to adopt annual budget

By Camille Escovedo, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, July 13, 2021

city council recap

At last week’s city council meeting, Mayor Una Glass called for Sebastopol city staff to prepare a final city budget for the fiscal year 2021-22 for adoption at the upcoming July 20 city council meeting.

Previously, the city council approved interim expenses for the city’s essential services at its June 21 meeting, since deliberations would continue past the usual start of the fiscal year in July.

The draft budget first presented on June 15 is available here.

The council discussed nearly a dozen additional budget proposals left over for further deliberation at a July 6 council meeting, speaking at length to a refocused vision for community and economic vitality efforts.

The City of Sebastopol is deficit-spending for the second year in a row, according to Councilmember Neysa Hinton. For the 2021-22 fiscal year, the city is projected to be spending about $1.2 million more than its expected revenue.

Swift consensus came for a municipal finance consultant to examine asset management, reserve account allocations and ways the city could boost its revenues. Though the placeholder amount was $30,000, city staff got a clearer cost estimate of $40,000 from Municipal Resource Group (MGR), according to the staff report.

 Charging up to “Relaunch Sebastopol,” backing away from CoMission

The council reassigned the $36,000 proposed for a six-month work plan by CoMission, the city’s current community vitality consultant, to the pot of money set aside for “Relaunch Sebastopol” marketing consultant services for reinvigorating the local economy.

The Relaunch Sebastopol effort was originally budgeted at $50,000 for the consultant work and $24,000 marked for beautifying city landscaping areas for a total of $74,000. Now that the funds are combined, the consultant work holds an allocation of $86,000.

The idea to merge the overlapping goals of Relaunch Sebastopol with community and economic vitality work grew into discussions of needing to determine what exactly the city wants in a Request for Proposal (RFP) process for those services.

Council members noted during a June 21 meeting that CoMission could apply in a new RFP process.

However, they were not enthusiastic about the cost of the consultant’s proposed six-month work plan to run the respective business, service club and nonprofit-oriented councils some suggested could sustain themselves at this point.

Hinton wanted to see clearer results after investing $160,000 into CoMission in the past year, much more than what they originally planned for the consultant before the pandemic struck and redirected their efforts.

According to Hinton and SoCoNews reporting in 2020, the city first hired CoMission at $40,000 intended for a part-time position working on economic and community development.

City Manager and attorney Larry Mclaughlin noted CoMission’s funding increased over time for pandemic-related work. Some of the original goals of the RFP went unfulfilled when the city shifted to attend to pandemic-related needs..

 Going down the list and dealing out the funds

Some of the council’s further discussions on budget allocations included consensus for:

●      $50,000 for the sewer lateral revolving fund

●      A placeholder amount of $10,300 for Map Your Neighborhood and updating the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Plan. Councilmember Diana Rich said most of this would fund radios and equipment for a growing neighborhood communications network to connect with the fire department and the EOC at the police department in an emergency.

●      The exact allocation was left somewhat open-ended, but the council referenced transferring at least $28,000 to the retirement pension reserve, from funds remaining after allocations to things like community grants, according to policy. Some on the council voiced wanting to increase this amount.

●      Reallocating $12,000 towards the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center (SCCC)’s concert series instead of SCCC’s maintenance of the Experience Sebastopol website and community calendar.

SCCC is still to receive $17,000 in total, but all of it can now go to a more robust concert series than the outdated website and calendar. Council members discussed designating the future marketing and vitality position to decide the future of the two, being more tourism-oriented resources.

      The council tentatively held off on more funding for its public works department to pay for additional porta-potties and hand washing stations for the city’s unhoused community since Superintendent Dante Del Prete said he believes the department’s budget can increase those resources until mid-year to then reassess the needs.

Glass said she thinks city staff will consult with advocates and McLaughlin will help determine the final number of facilities to be provided.

●      $30,000 allocated to compost-related costs regarding SB 1383 were allocated a tentative $30,000, with hopes across the council that the cost would lower over time and McLaughlin saying the city would be open to any loophole or way to pay less since certain decisions were made on the issue before Sebastopol and other cities had to shift to the pandemic and continue to face those challenges.

●      $2,000 for the Sebastopol Gravenstein Lions Club, which fell short of the deadline to submit a funding request for organizations impacted by the firework sales ban.

This article was produced by SoCoNews. See more news at soconews.org