Council to Examine 'Big Picture' Financial Outlook on Tuesday

Tuesday's Novato City Council meeting will be about the five-year forecast model, options for sustainability and funding targets.

Fasten safety belts and make sure tray tables are in the locked position: Phase 2 of Novato's post-recession economic game plan is about to begin.

The Novato City Council will dive into a "big picture" discussion Tuesday night to try and figure out the city's long-term financial situation.

The forecast doesn't look great according to a city staff report released for Tuesday's meeting (attached), but things could be so much worse. We could be faced with a Vallejo-Stockton scenario, falling backward into bankruptcy. But as part of Phase 1, city leaders made huge ongoing cuts two years ago and residents approved a sales tax increase to help elude the most ominous fiscal storms.

Three years ago, the city staff's five-year forecast showed an estimated budget deficit of $6.7 million for the 2014-2015 year. Now the projection is a $595,000 shortfall. "This is significant progress," the city staff said in its report.

Spending cuts, labor concessions, the Measure F sales-tax revenue and the elimination of a costly lease for city offices on Rowland Way (as new city offices are built in Old Town) are among the actions credited with closing the gap.

The start of Phase 2 includes Tuesday's chat about the five-year forecast model, options for sustainability and funding targets. Key questions about the level of services residents can expect from their local government are to be asked, touching on the always-prominent point about police protection. The revenue development side of things is expected to include frank talk about development of retail opportunities and new funding sources.

By January, the community will be asked about which services (recreation classes? street median maintenance? police?) are most necessary to our local government. What can you live without? What's absolutely vital?

The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at .

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Dave Robertson August 28, 2012 at 04:49 AM
Places like Carmel are high end communities, where homes cost many times that in Novato. It's a luxurious ocean town, while Novato is just a couple of exits off N. 101. Things like police protection and schools are important and need to be fully funded throughout our recession, though care must be taken to keep salaries at all levels reasonable - pensions too. Most people in the private sector get no pensions or retirement benefits other than SS and Medicare. To spend $900,000 over 10 years to advertise tourism is a total joke for the City of Novato! Novato has little or no use to tourists. Perhaps Napa, but not here. Business thrives, when there are businesses that offer something that the public wants. Downtown Mill Valley thrives because it attracts the kind of investment that can make this a reality. I think the city needs to face the realities of what Novato really has to offer, and deal with business from there. This is a suburban commuter town. We have no large industry like the South Bay. There is nothing wrong with Novato being Novato. Things become wrong when our city government tries to turn this into something it will never be. The downtown city office construction is a perfect example of this kind of delusional thinking.
Dave Robertson August 28, 2012 at 05:02 AM
I will add that one thing our city government is lacking is a sense of the housing market, and what all this below market rate housing will do to existing homes. It becomes a sad state of affairs when one realizes our mayor is a realtor. Housing (traditionally) has been all about supply and demand. Right now things are bad all over because the whole country was overbuilt for many years. Now, banks are hesitant to lend and the situation compounds on itself. Yet Novato continues to build and plan more BMR housing. All that does is to lower prices of market rate housing from the bottom up. This is financially suicidal, but our City Council insists on more and more! Demand, of course, is low. In fact, the only thing holding most housing markets from creeping lower is the fact that so many underwater homeowners are stuck where they are for a very long time. Yet I constantly see the debate for BMR housing in the local news media, but there is no outrage about our City Council's insistence to make our situation worse. I am all for a fair allotment of subsidized housing, but to take on the bulk of the burden at the expense of long-time citizens is wrong!
Lloyd August 28, 2012 at 04:18 PM
This is a telling moment in Novato's future. Next month is the deadline for Novato to respond to ABAG regarding the 2014 - 2022 affordable housing allocations. Although I don't always agree with the Council I believe the Mayor and majority are in lockstep with putting the brakes on unreasonable, unfunded mandates housing from the State. Dave's last sentence is the most intuitive to our reality. Just as it is fair to help lower income working families and seniors with affordable housing it is just as fair and equally important to respect and take the needs of ALL our residents into account when dealing with these allocations.
Susan Wernick August 28, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Eleanor, San Marin residents pay a Landscape Maintenance fee on their property taxes which pays for the maintenance of the median strips in the neighborhood.
Mark Burnham August 30, 2012 at 01:38 PM
what do you think our next vice president would say about our current city council, their decision to build a city hall with $15 million+ of tax payer funds when they have an annual structural deficit? what would he say about this council's complete ineptitude when it comes to running a "business" or helping small businesses thrive? obama and the novato city council have many things in common.. one of which is that they will be out of jobs shortly. here is what he would say: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRPltzYoPE0


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