City of Napa Reinvests in Parks and Infrastructure with Budget Surplus | Local News


The city of Napa is reinvesting funds in improvements to local parks, sidewalks, equipment replacements and other areas previously reduced at the start of the pandemic after receiving more revenue than expected in the past fiscal year.

Napa City Council voted unanimously this week to allocate a projected surplus of revenue of $ 5.44 million from fiscal year 2020-2021 – which ended in early July – to several areas that have suffered cuts due to a predicted financial downturn due to the pandemic.

As a result of the vote, approximately $ 1.5 million will be donated to funded park improvement projects; $ 913,000 is donated to the city’s sidewalk program; and $ 1.16 million will go to the City’s Capital Improvement Program facilities reserve.

In addition, $ 406,000 will be donated to the city’s fire apparatus replacement reserve; $ 150,000 will go to the equipment replacement reserve; and $ 186,000 will be donated to the city’s parking security fund.

“The city is relieved to be able to reallocate these dollars to Napa community sidewalks, public facilities and our firefighting replacement funds – all of which suffered drastic cuts in the original budget,” wrote the City Manager Steve Potter in an open letter. . “In addition, we have reimbursed necessary renovations to the equipment of playgrounds, replacements of park infrastructure and repairs to parking lots so that residents can safely and comfortably enjoy the outdoors in our parks. “

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The council also allocated $ 150,000 for hiring and recruiting incentives, which has remained a challenge for the city – and employers across the country – during an economic recovery this year. And the concurrence motion called for $ 1 million to be placed in the city’s Section 115 trust, which was created to help mitigate increases in future pension costs and did not receive a contribution. during the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

The city’s revenue has been hit significantly over the past fiscal year, Potter said, and the surplus is the result of the city budgeting around a projected revenue cut of $ 20 million.

The city of Napa is reallocating revenue earned over the past fiscal year largely to areas that have been cut off in anticipation of an economic downturn induced by a pandemic.

Courtesy of the City of Napa

“I think it’s important to remember and keep in mind that we haven’t seen an increase in general fund operating income this year,” Potter said. “Our current financial situation is the result of the actions we have taken. “

A General Fund budget approved in June 2019 projected that the city would receive $ 104.75 million in revenue and spend $ 103.3 million in fiscal year 2020-2021.

The city ultimately generated around $ 88.3 million in revenue – and added around $ 6 million in one-time revenue by funding various city projects – and spent around $ 88.6 million in the last fiscal year, City Budget Officer Jessie Gooch said. The city only managed to spend $ 88.6 million on cuts and freeze vacancies.

This amount of revenue does not include the $ 7.4 million the city received from the US federal bailout in May, as guidelines on how the funds are to be used are still evolving, the chief financial officer said. Elizabeth Cabell. (The city will receive a second allocation of $ 7.4 million in American Rescue Act funds in the current fiscal year, according to the registry’s earlier reports.)

“When that money was first made available and sent, it was sent like ‘here is money, spend it, spend it on whatever you need to spend it’,” said Potter at the meeting. “We have since discovered that there are restrictions and limitations on this money. The last thing we want to do is have to pay back $ 14 million because we made unauthorized expenses, so we try to be very careful.

Although the city’s property tax revenue continued to grow steadily, revenue generated from the business license tax, sales tax, and hotel room tax, as well as revenue generated from municipal services, all declined during the pandemic, Gooch said.

The biggest drop in fiscal year 2020-21 was in the hotel room tax – known as the transitional occupancy tax, or TOT – which generated just under $ 12 million in revenue compared to $ 23 million for the 2018-19 fiscal year, Gooch added. But revenue from that tax was up when the fiscal year ended in late June, she said.

Napa council members said they were happy to see the city’s budgeting process paying off.

“We’re not out of the woods yet, but the work here and everyone’s sacrifice really shows that we’ve put ourselves in a better position than we thought we were in,” board member Bernie Narvaez said.

Board member Liz Alessio said she was okay with the hiring incentive allowance at the moment, but was concerned that it was not enough for the city to be competitive in the hiring for certain positions, such as police officers – who typically receive around $ 15,000 in hiring bonuses. , she said.

Council member Mary Luros said the hiring allowance is upfront funding and City Council will be able to further fund the hiring incentives, if needed, later.

Several board members also said they were anxious to find out what the American Rescue Act funds could be used for.

“We’ve been pretty conservative in the way we’ve approached our finances during COVID, and I’m so grateful that we are able to bring back some of these projects that have been really, really hard to cut,” Luros said. “I think we’re still a bit out of breath and the future is still unknown – we don’t know how long this will continue – but I appreciate the staff’s balanced approach to allocating those funds and bringing back some. of those who are really difficult. cuts.

On a dry, windswept northern California coastal prairie, a Tule Elk bull stakes its grass, crying for a female. It is the height of the mating season. For 40 years the species thrived on federal protected land, the Point Reyes National Seashore, but now part of its herd is in the process of extinction. “So it’s a drought-stricken reserve where they trapped half the animals, about 600 moose in the park, about 300 inside the so-called Tule Elk reserve. And there isn’t. enough food or water in the reserve, ”said Jack Gescheidt of the Tree Spirit Project. They are dying of thirst. The West is caught in a mega-drought. There is not enough rain or snowmelt to feed the aquifer and fill the elk’s watering troughs, or to make the pastures green. “Well, the thing about tule elk is that they are what we call key species, they evolve with the native landscape and therefore they play a role in the main maintenance and also the restoration of the landscape. native, ”said biologist Julie Phillips. Even these tough elk, whose adaptations allow their bodies to extract moisture from the driest vegetation, are in decline. “The numbers we threw out are that 406 elk died according to the parks service’s own tally over the past decade, 152 of those elk last year,” Gescheidt said. Gescheidt, a local photographer and animal rights activist, has drawn attention to the plight of elks. Dozens of people gathered at Seashore Park to rally to defend the elk in September. Extreme summer temperatures and extreme changes lead Gescheidt to do something extreme himself. He organized dozens to bring water in hand to dehydrated elk. “There are too many hot days; the ground cooks like that, and all these problems are the reservoirs, ”he said. “I’ve never seen them so low. I’ve lived here for 20 years. I’ve never seen a reservoir so low and the ponds in the park that the elk drink completely dried up.” Elk are fenced off on the Tomales Point section, so they cannot access other water sources. The division exists because dairy farmers and ranchers operate and have grazing rights on the other side, which are leased by the National Park Service. Campaigners want a fence that divides Point Reyes National Seashore to go down. On the one hand, there are dairy farms with wide access to water. On the other hand, the elk are cut off from the water and die of thirst. “Elk shouldn’t be like this,” Gescheidt said. “They shouldn’t be starving. They should be free to go where it’s only 100 acres away, plenty of food and water, enough food and water.” Gescheidt is a plaintiff in a lawsuit to remove the fence and change the park’s management plan. Senior counsel says elk supporters want the entire reserve management plan changed to help wildlife first, not just farm businesses. “The park service knows that the tule elk, which live at Tomales Point, have been dying horrific and preventable deaths for years,” said Kate Barnekow of the Harvard Animal Law & Policy Program. “Our complainants told them, the general public told them and they took no action.” The National Park Service declined to speak on camera due to the ongoing litigation, but said they installed water tanks to help the herd. “But we humanity heat the water we’re in, bring it to a boil, and we don’t know how to get out or we don’t want to get out,” Gescheidt said. Campaigners say the fence still stands in the way and the drought and deaths should also raise another issue: access by pastoralists to land set aside for nature.

You can reach Edward Booth at (707) 256-2213.


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