Paso Robles City Council votes to put 1-cent sales tax increase on ballot
–Paso Robles City Council voted Tuesday night to put a one-cent increase in sales tax to increase revenue for city government on the upcoming November ballot. The spending priorities for the increased revenue would be police, fire, and street repair. The sales tax rate in Paso Robles is currently 7.75-percent.
City Manager Tom Frutchey estimated the revenue would be about $10 million. Forty percent of that revenue would come from out-of-town visitors, the city says.
The increase, if passed by voters in November, would expire in 12 years unless ended sooner by voters. There would also be an Oversight Committee to ensure that all funds are spent on the council’s stated priorities and are kept locally to benefit the Paso Robles community. Staff’s presentation and council’s discussion focused on the city’s financial outlook, the increasing demand for essential services, the fiscal impacts of COVD-19 that have exacerbated fiscal challenges, and efforts to date to reduce spending. In addition, updated polling results were presented, indicating that 65% of residents polled indicated support for such a measure.
The council rejected an increase of the transient occupancy tax. Consultant John Fairbank of FM3 said it’s difficult for a city to gain passage of two tax increases on the same ballot. He said his surveys indicated Paso Roblans would approve a 1-percentage point increase in sales tax.
Paso Roblans will find the tax measure on the upcoming ballot. The tax would end in 12 years, although voters could repeal it before then.
Additional highlights from the city council meeting, are as follows. The City Council took the following actions:
Received Update on COVID-19: There are over 400,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in California, 1,369 in SLO County, and 328 in the Paso Robles area zip code. Fire Chief Jonathan Stornetta reminded community members to heed public health guidelines to protect themselves and their community members, particularly those in high-risk populations.
Received Update on Capital Improvement Projects: Barney Schwartz Upper Playground Replacement, funded by the REC Foundation, is complete. A celebration is anticipated when playgrounds are permitted to reopen under State guidelines. Spring Street resurfacing from 24th to 36th street is nearing completion. The Main West Water Tank is now largely complete, has been filled with 4 million gallons of water, and has passed water quality testing and received State permits to operate. Starting on Monday, July 20, it was serving water to the west side of the city. Some residents have already noticed an increase in water pressure.
Awarded Construction and Construction Engineering Contracts for Dry Creek Road Repairs: The city recently completed the installation and upgrade of the underground utilities, such as water and sewer, preparing the road for reconstruction. The roadway is narrow in some areas and the existing edges and asphalt have deteriorated. By awarding these contracts, the road surface will be improved and provide a smoother driving surface for many years. Council authorized a construction contract to Raminha Construction, in the amount of $1,984,355, and the construction phase engineering to Pavement Engineering, Inc., in the amount of $167,290, to repair/reconstruct the surface of Dry Creek Road from Airport Road to just east of the Estrella Warbirds Museum. The awarded bid was approximately half of the engineer’s cost estimate. Budget savings will be used for the next phase of improvements for Dry Creek Road from Estrella Warbirds to Jardine Road, which is being designed and in the environmental permitting process, and for other street work.
Use of CARES Act Funding: The city will receive $385,490 in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds created under the CARES Act in March. The funds will be funneled through the State, must be spent by October or returned to the state, and can be used only for eligible COVID-19 response activities. Council approved the use of the funds in three overall categories and directed staff to report back on how the funds are spent as more information becomes available about costs and confirmed eligibility in each category. An estimated $100,000-$200,000 will be used to cover city COVID-19 response efforts unlikely to be reimbursed by FEMA, possibly for street closure implementation costs, and possibly for services to homeless populations to ensure compliance with COVID-19 precautions. An estimated $15,000-$25,000 will be used for public education and outreach regarding public health orders. Finally, approximately $100,000-$200,00 will be used to implement a Small Business Assistance Program to assist 10 to 20 small businesses with one-time micro-grants of up to $10,000 to offset demonstrated business interruption caused by COVID-19.
Discussed Salinas Riverbed Clean-up and Homeless Relocation and Services: On July 15, 2020, the city council approved an updated Policy Regarding Removal of Garbage in the Salinas Riverbed; Clean-Up of Temporary Shelters; and Code Enforcement Abatement Procedures. The city is working in partnership with ECHO, the County, and other social service providers to develop a comprehensive approach to relocate the homeless and help them access needed social services, locate suitable areas to live, retain ownership of their private property, and observe measures appropriate to reduce risks from the coronavirus. Council received a presentation regarding potential sites to utilize for temporary relocation of the homeless, and preliminary cost estimates associated. Council directed staff to proceed with relocating homeless from the portion of the riverbed from 13th street north to the Borkey Flats site, which is on the east side of the riverbed just north of the sewage lift station building and to provide minimal services at that site.