Nevada City considers $30k of new sales tax for courthouse
May 17, 2013
At a nearly deserted public meeting Thursday about preferred municipal uses of revenue from a voter-approved sales tax increase, Nevada City Councilman Robert Bergman suggested that $30,000 of those funds be allocated toward a proposed $94,000 study to kick-start the long sought-after Nevada County Courthouse facility upgrade, in lieu of state funding for the project.
"This study is the only way to rehab the project and save (the courthouse)," Bergman said. "If it doesn't happen, it will continue to slide into decay."
The nearly 150-year-old Nevada County Courthouse, which overlooks the historic downtown of Nevada City, was poised for a $108 million upgrade within the last year, that is until continued state legislature budget reallocations from courthouse funds forced the state judicial branch to put the project on indefinite delay in January.
Proponents of a locally-funded feasibility and cost engineering study will make the proposed project more attractive than other statewide projects vying for judicial funds that have diminished in recent years, should funding ever become available.
After City Manager David Brennan noted that $21,000 of the expected $395,000 added first year tax revenues had yet to be allocated, Bergman's four council colleagues supported his suggested and added it to the proposed to funding priorities that will be brought back to the council at a subsequent meeting for formal approval.
Councilwoman Sally Harris suggested that although no one foresaw allocating Measure L to an effort to revamp the courthouse at its current downtown location on Church Street, such a funding is fitting with the intent of Measure L in that it would preserve the economic vitality of the historic district.
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When asked by Harris why Nevada City, with its smaller proportional population, should contributed close to one third of a proposed study that could benefit then entire county, Brennan noted Nevada City stands to benefit most directly from retaining the county judicial function in its boarders.
"We need to be thinking what our fair share is beyond population," Brennan noted. "We are the ones at the front of the line and people might be looking at us to make that initial commitment."
With funds preliminarily allocated, Brennan notes that study advocates could pursue other affected parties, such as the county government or perhaps Grass Valley, about contributing toward the study as well.
Bergman, who sits on the county Economic Resource Council, said he would bring the idea before that organization at its subsequent meeting. No mention was made whether the topic would be broached at Friday's joint meeting of the cities and the county.
Only two non-governmental Nevada City residents cared enough to attend Thursday's meeting about the proposed city expenditures of revenues from a tax increase that more than 66 percent of voters approved.
"I expected there would be a great crowd of us with ideas of how we might use the Mueasure L funds," said Teresa Mann, owner of JJJackson's, a downtown store.
Mann suggested that the city use the funds to to reinvest toward enterprises that generate sales tax.
"If there could be a great support of local shops, bed and breakfasts, restaurants and other businesses that generate those (sales taxes), we could have a longer range income source," Mann said, suggesting later that a liaison might help.
Mayor Duane Strawser offered to meet privately with Mann to help flesh out her suggestion.
Resident Wally Krill raised a concern that expenditures of the tax revenue be portrayed in a transparent manner, asking why a once-mulled citizen oversight committee had not been formed.
The topic evoked much response from the council members. Harris noted that at a city council meeting on Measure L, those that attended spoke against an oversight committee, essentially saying it was council's job to give financial oversight of city expenditures.
Brennan noted that as a non-special tax, Measure L funds are technically allocated to the general fund and that the city's efforts to keep the fund separate, with annual allocation meetings and quarterly expenditure reports, the city was being transparent.
"This meeting is an opportunity for the community to give their input," said Councilwoman Sally Harris. "THis is the first step and unfortunately we didn't get a great turnout… Since this was not well attended, I don't know why we would create another group."
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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