Grass Valley seeking tax revenue watchdogs
November 29, 2012
Residents of Grass Valley who are at least 18 years old and don't get a city paycheck have the basic requirements to serve on a tax revenue soon-to-be-formed oversight committee.
At a Tuesday night meeting, the members of the Grass Valley City Council outlined the process that will lead to a five-person advisory group charged with reviewing and advising the city's expenditure of $2.4 million brought in annually from Measure N, a voter-approved half-cent local sales tax measure.
"We sometimes have a hard time filling these seats," said Councilman Jason Fouyer about city committees.
"Maybe this committee will be more of an interest to people," he said.
When two-thirds of Grass Valley voters approved Measure N earlier this month, one of the selling points was the citizen oversight committee to review expenditures to make sure they are going where officials told voters it would go, as well as review future expenditures.
While Measure N funds are allocated to the city's general fund, the city outlined the addition of police officers, 2.5 firefighters and prioritizing city street maintenance as priorities. The police department had indicated that without the measure, lesser crimes would not receive priority responses and other services would be cut.
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Since the economic downturn, Grass Valley's estimated nearly $10.1 million general fund is $1.5 million lower than its fiscal year 2007-08 peak at nearly $11.56 million. The half-cent tax will take effect April 1 with funds coming into the city starting in June. City staff proposes those funds be incorporated into the 2013-14 budget.
The oversight committee will also be tasked with advising the abolition of the tax measure should the city's tax revenues return to pre-recession levels — another of the selling points.
"Whether they do more than that," said City Attorney Michael Colantuono, "is really up to the council."
Both staff and council stressed that this group would operate in a non-binding, advisory manner.
City Councilman Jason Fouyer noted that the committee's role is partially to hold the city accountable but also to communicate with the public.
In addition to requiring voting-aged city residency, council also prohibited anyone receiving a city paycheck, such as police officers or firefighters, from serving on the committee.
Each council member will appoint a committee applicant. Those applicants will be reviewed by a subcommittee comprised of the two councils' members. Those recommendations will then need to be approved by a majority of the entire council.
Committee member's terms will be tied to those of the council members who appointed them so that two will be for two-year terms and three will be for four.
The city will likely begin soliciting for applicants in December with appointments solidified in late January or early February, said City Manager Dan Holler.
"We would like to move the process forward as we kick off this next budget season," Holler said.
Nonprofit to run Condon Park building
Council also gave the go ahead to Gold Country Community Services, a nonprofit organization, to operate and manage Condon Park's LOVE building.
Gold Country was founded in 1976 as a senior citizen foundation and currently serves 45,000 meals a year to that demographic and others, as well as supplying fire wood and organizing community activities.
While the nonprofit would be responsible for scheduling community use of the facility year-round for three years in exchange for use of the building, it would also have the right to use the LOVE building for its own purposes, the approved agreement spells out.
"In these financially constrained times, the city is always looking at ways to provide residents services, while reducing staffing and operational costs," said Tim Kiser at Tuesday's meeting.
Operation of the building would not come at any cost to the city, beyond basic utilities such as water and sewer, the proposed agreement indicates.
"Even though it sounds like this agreement is financially weighted to benefit Gold Country Community Services, I am confident that the cost to operate this building far exceeds this $4,000 (a year) for gas and electric," Kiser said. "There are a lot of unseen costs."
Having GCCS operate the LOVE Building will greatly reduce staff time involved in reservations and maintenance, Kiser noted in his report to council.
Gold Country Executive Director Sandy "Jake" Jacobson, a former city employee, indicated that her organization, which already runs most of the community activities at the building, would also upgrade many of the building's elements.
Some of those activities include line dancing, Tai Chi and yoga. However, with use of the LOVE building, Gold Country will be able to expand its activities to better serve the community, Jacobson noted.
"It is obvious to me that the building is not used to its capactiy," said resident Ed Thomas. "This is an obvious opportunity to do more good for our community."
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4236.