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Council gets lowdown on $1 million in new fees

Original post made on Apr 8, 2010

Mountain View City Council members had the "not pleasant" task of examining a range of proposed fee hikes on city services Tuesday night, with a goal of finding $1 million in new city revenue.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, April 8, 2010, 10:55 AM

Comments (20)

Posted by James, a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 8, 2010 at 3:07 pm

A bit off-topic, but what about a major hit for executive level positions like perhaps 20% pay cuts. I read about our esteemed Library Director's big double dip as an example. Blaming the union contracts is by itelf very limited. How about we blame those of our leaders who negotiated those contracts with our union employees? Our "first responders" are now "first to the trough" of top class pensions.


Posted by Karen DeMello, a resident of Jackson Park
on Apr 8, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Todays on-line Mountain View Voice (4/8/2010) has an article about proposed fees to generate city revenue. There is a quote from council member Laura Macias which very much bothers me: "People are using Shoreline Park completely for free. That seems unusual to me."

First, Shoreline is not a park. The proper name for this gem at the bay is called "Shoreline at Mountain View" and it consists of a preserve with trail, a restaurant, bar, cafe, a boathouse that offers windsurfing & other lessons, and the historic Rengstorff House.

Second, why is going to the bay for free "unusual:? The only neighboring city that charges is the City of Sunnyvale. Back in the mid-1990's I worked near the bay in Sunnyvale and a friend with small childen who lived in Sunnyvale suggested meeting for a picnic lunch at Sunnyvale Baylands since it was close to where I worked. I told her that sounded good, and reminded her to bring money for the entrance fee. With that she said she didn't want to go to Sunnyvale Baylands, and we instead met at a city park that was free. At the time I thought it was very sad that a resident would avoid Sunnyvale Baylands because of a parking fee. In fact where there are parking fees many people park in nearby areas and walk in for free; aside from big picnics or corporate events, Sunnyvale Baylands is usually very empty.

As a Mountain View resident I feel like I am already paying for Shoreline at Mountain View, Cuesta Park, and other resources in our city. Walking near the bay is a refreshing experience; I am always thankful that this escape is so close to home. All residents should be encouraged to go to Shoreline at Mountain View. Charging a fee would be detrimental to the businesses there and to our residents. Please keep Shoreline at Mountain View open to everyone.


Posted by Anne C., a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 8, 2010 at 5:57 pm

First we are told that the affluent "Shoreline Community" tax district, which includes Google, cannot contribute tax revenue to the local schools because it must pay for valuable city services like operating Shoreline Park (See Voice articles from March 11 and 18). Now we are told there is not enough money to operate Shoreline Park, and we must pay additional fees. It sounds like a political shell game to me.



Posted by Why?, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 8, 2010 at 7:56 pm

"Encourage people to walk and bike." Really? Are you kidding? Those that come to downtown Mountain View to eat, which is all there is to do down there, are not within walking distance. Really? Are you that out of touch to really think that?

A five dollar fee for Shoreline Park? Really? Yeah, if you want the park to be empty, sure go right ahead. I will park on the street on the other side of the park and walk in. Then I won't use the Lake Side Cafe and I'll go to Santa Clara Muni if I want to golf.

If the city is really in that much of a debt problem then how about letting Google build their Hotel without all the city restrictions. Remember this:

"Move over Hotel Avante, because the Land of Google is about to get a shiny and brand new hotel. The Mountain View, CA, City Council selected The Robert Green Co. of Encinitas, CA to exclusively negotiate to build a 225-room hotel with restaurant and conference center right next to Google Inc.'s headquarters at the Shoreline district."

Oh opps...that project caused some problems:

1) "On Tuesday the council voted unanimously to buy 9.75 acres outside the city for $150,000 from the Alameda-based Haera Land Bank -- one more step towards having a hotel built by Google on land leased from the city."

2)""It just didn't work out," said Jay Bechtel, Google's real estate and construction manager. "We couldn't come to an agreement [with the city] on terms -- and we're disappointed.""

3)"We had good negotiations with them," said city manager Kevin Duggan, "but we had not gotten to a point where both sides felt all the issues were resolved."

Please note the last one....if Duggan's "Negotiations" is anything like he negotiates with his own people then I can see why Google said forget it were walking.

Now the lot sits empty for another few years. I wonder if the owls came back?




Posted by Andrew, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 9, 2010 at 6:28 am

Do Bryant and Abe-Koga have their own parking spaces at City Hall? Sounds like it's time for those to go. They can walk or bike.


Posted by voter, a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 9, 2010 at 8:50 am

Todays on-line Mountain View Voice (4/8/2010) has an article about proposed fees to generate city revenue. There is a quote from council member Laura Macias which very much bothers me: "People are using Shoreline Park completely for free. That seems unusual to me."

OMG did Laura really say that?! Free?! There's no such thing as a free lunch, the reason we use Shoreline Park and Cuesta Park and the Library for "free" is because someone's tax dollars paid for them!

Charging a fee to enter Shoreline Park makes as much sense as charging a fee to enter Cuesta Park, the Library, or to stroll down Castro Street.

I agree with the posts above. If the city puts little toll booths and fee collectors at Shoreline Park, well, the ones who will benefit will be the wildlife because there won't be any people there.

The City should start by looking at what cuts can be made at the Palace before collecting more money from the Peasants.


Posted by Laura Macias, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 9, 2010 at 10:24 am

Regarding my statement on charging for parking at Shoreline, taking a quote out of context sounds exciting but does not connote the point I made. I stated that rather than nickel and diming our way on parks and rec fees to increase revenues-- the staff has proposed a $600,0000 increase annually on MV parks and rec services -- that a new Parking fee at Shoreline has the best potential for annual revenue of least $300,000 (staff report disapproved). I proposed that we reduce the amount of Parks and Rec service revenue increases to 300k as a result of implementing the Shoreline fees/revenues. I also said but it was not reported that we should charge $3 not 5 and could well have free parking fee days; and that we start with a pilot to see how the program would work. I stated that I'd researched smart parking machines that can process multiple parking fee schedules. We estimate that 40 to 60% of visitors are non-residents to Shoreline Park.

Here's the deal, we need to meet a 5M budget gap this coming budget year 2010-2011. Council is being asked to review a lot of unappealing choices but the truth is revenues (for a city, that's taxes and fees) have gone down. We must both cut expenses and find ways to increase revenues. The good news is that Mountain View is still a well run city. Only a handful of the 435 cities in California and 12 in the nation have AAA S&P credit ratings, Mountain View is one.
If people have ideas for raising revenues or cutting expenses for the city, you should let us know. Maybe Don, our trusty MV editor could run a virtual suggestion box on the Voice. Thanks, I know it's tough times for many of us so that is why this is triply hard to do at this time.


Posted by City Watcher, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 9, 2010 at 11:55 am

These fees are an appropriate way to reduce the budget gap. For many years Mountain View has been providing MUCH bigger subsidies than other cities for these services. Even with these adjustments, the fees will only be the same or less than other cities.

For the long term, Mountain View needs fees to roughly match those of other cities - and needs EXPENSES to match those of other cities (or be lower).

But we also need to make BIG changes to city employee contracts when they come up for renewal. In particular, the health and retirement benefit costs are MUCH bigger than what people get working in the private sector, and we cannot afford it.

Mountain View Council should work with other cities to get a widespread agreement that Bay area cities will reduce health and retirement benefits to a single standard rate - and ideally change retirement to a 401K type approach where cities match employee contributions and do not have some undefined long-term liability.


Posted by Big Al, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 9, 2010 at 11:57 am

Sorry, Ms. Macias, I can't take much of what you say seriously. You are part of the same City Council that rehired retirees to double dip just a few months ago.

Web Link

Okay, okay... they were irreplaceable. Yeah right. How much could have been saved there?

If you implement fees at Shoreline, few will go. It's just not worth it. So keep back paddling.


Posted by Frances, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 9, 2010 at 3:39 pm

How about allowing residents to park free at Shoreline but charging non-residents? Seems fair to me.


Posted by @Laura, a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 9, 2010 at 6:08 pm

To Laura Macias,

Thank you for responding to this online community. It is very often difficult for me to read this - as it is very often rude and almost always negative.

Right now, economics is VERY hard for all of us - individuals, families, schools, cities, etc.

I can see that the City Council is working hard to meet the budget this year. Work hard. Some of us really appreciate your work!


Posted by Rodger, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 9, 2010 at 6:36 pm

The fees being considered will make Mountain View and unfriendly place, let's cut the paid city leaders salaries, insist that the union staff take a voluntary cut in exchange for less cuts when their contracts expire. And last use some of the city reserves now, if this is not a rainy day then we will never have one. Business and city income will pick up in one to two years and when it does we should not add new services but pay into the reserves.


Posted by Seldon, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 9, 2010 at 11:25 pm

The title of the news article is a bit inflammatory as it emphasizes a $1 million increase in fees. What the title doesn't contain but is further revealed in the article is that the total DEFICIT that needs to be addressed is $4 Million.

So let's review, $1 Million in increased fees, $1 Million in reduced employee benefit costs, and $2 Million in other city government expenditures including laying off 24 people.

So 75% of the cost reductions is being borne by the city itself, and 25% will be spread over residents AND non-residents who use specific city services.

This is our City, we should all pitch in to help. If the City is volunteering to take 75% of the pain, and ask us to share communally the other 25%, at least for this budget cycle, that's just rolling up your sleeves and helping out, instead of whining and complaining on the sidelines.

However, once the Union contracts for public employees start coming due in a year or two, I would equally expect that the main drivers of the $4 Million and growing annual deficits, created by ballooning pension and benefits costs, be rigorously negotiated by the City to correct the root cause of this problem.


Posted by Seldon, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 9, 2010 at 11:34 pm

"Sorry, Ms. Macias, I can't take much of what you say seriously. You are part of the same City Council that rehired retirees to double dip just a few months ago.

Web Link

Okay, okay... they were irreplaceable. Yeah right. How much could have been saved there?

If you implement fees at Shoreline, few will go. It's just not worth it. So keep back paddling."

-------------------

Having a City Council member participate in this discussion, and provide information that attempts to clarify misconceptions that the news article failed to do is welcomed.

What importance or validity you tie to those comments is your choice, but I personally found Ms. Macias's comments more enlightening and helpful to addressing the City's budget problems, than your ranting.

If anyone needs to keep paddling, it's you.

And no, I'm not her mother...


Posted by Karen DeMello, a resident of Jackson Park
on Apr 10, 2010 at 9:24 am

Dear Council Member Laura Macias,
You asked for ideas on how to raise revenue. Mountain View has a unique resource: Shoreline Amphitheater which seats over 20,000 people. Why not hold a "benefit for Mountain View" concert. If $30 of each ticket went to the city think about what revenue this could generate! Seems to me this is a win-win situation for the city and residents.


Posted by Maria, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 10, 2010 at 11:57 am

I think that's a great idea. Maybe we could get Maurice Ghysels to perform with his guitar!


Posted by Anne C., a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 10, 2010 at 12:06 pm

The Shoreline Community special tax district is supposed to pay to maintain and operate Shoreline Park. If it cannot fulfill its responsibilities without levying additional taxes and fees on the residents of Mountain View, then it should be dissolved and the revenues folded into the City's general fund.


Posted by Seldon, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 10, 2010 at 9:35 pm

"The Shoreline Community special tax district is supposed to pay to maintain and operate Shoreline Park. If it cannot fulfill its responsibilities without levying additional taxes and fees on the residents of Mountain View, then it should be dissolved and the revenues folded into the City's general fund."

-----------------

The proposed funds generated by fees for Shoreline Park are not for maintaining Shoreline Park, but rather to close the gap in the general operating budget deficit that is close to $4 Million dollars in size. In other words, the City is proposing to MAKE money from fees at Shoreline Park, to pay down this deficit, not to SPEND the money for Shoreline Park.

Now I'm sure there are those who will then say, well, "Why shouldn't we use the Shoreline Community Tax District funds to cover the budget deficit and not raise any fees then?"

The reason for not doing this is the same reason for not usurping these funds for the budget deficit the MV School District has:

Any accounting department will tell you grabbing funds from a capital improvements budget (like the Shoreline Community Tax District) to pay down deficits in your general operating budget is a bad idea. You are covering up a problem that will only come back the next year, and as the data suggests, in spades. You also set a precedent that robbing Peter to pay Paul is acceptable, especially harmful when doing so puts potential harm on Mountain View's future, in order to bandage a problem that doesn't address the root cause.

But you can certainly cite examples of this type of budgeting: The State of California has been doing this for years, shifting money back and forth to fire-fight a budget that has structural problems, which are coincidentally also driven partially by public employee pension and benefit costs.


Posted by southbay reader, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 10, 2010 at 11:08 pm

In regards to the parking fees at Shoreline Park.... Think about this......

How about issuing free parking passes for MV Residents and charge Non-Residents for day passes. They actually do this at some of the East Bay Parks.


Posted by Anne C., a resident of Rex Manor
on Apr 11, 2010 at 12:53 pm

"The proposed funds generated by fees for Shoreline Park are not for maintaining Shoreline Park, but rather to close the gap in the general operating budget deficit."

----

Yes. But as a park user, I can tell you that while I am happy to pay fees that stay in the park, I deeply resent having to pay park fees in order to support random, unrelated city services. Parks have a hard enough time without having to generate revenue for everything else.

That's what taxes are for.


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