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December 05, 2003

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Publication Date: Friday, December 05, 2003

City sets aside $6 million for housing City sets aside $6 million for housing (December 05, 2003)

Schools and other agencies will have to wait

By Candice Shih

The city council has authorized spending up to $6 million for new low-income housing if a project to its liking comes along.

The funds will be raised by a bond issue authorized by the downtown Revitalization Authority, which is entitled to take a portion of property taxes to pay for local projects.

The choice came down to issuing the new debt or allowing school districts and other public agencies more money from property taxes.

According to the rules of the Revitalization Authority, Mountain View has until the end of the year to secure $6 million for low-income housing only or the opportunity will be permanently lost. The council decided on Nov. 18 to issue the debt and have the Authority sell bonds to the city's Shoreline Regional Park Community.

The money can be spent at any time on housing or returned to the agencies that receive property taxes, which include the city, the county, and the school districts, without any penalty.

"For me, it comes down to housing versus schools, not to mention other agencies," said Council member Matt Neely.

Without the debt, the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District would receive an estimated $103,000 extra from property taxes each year from 2009 to 2019. The Mountain View-Whisman School District would also receive more funds from property taxes, but then less from the state, which would result in no net gain.

Although several council members said it was difficult choosing between low-income housing and education, the council voted 6-1 in favor of creating the new debt for future housing projects. Council member Greg Perry cast the sole vote of dissent.

"I think the money is better spent for our own general fund, for the county," said Perry, adding, "there's upgraded science labs; there's salaries for English teachers; there's textbooks. Is putting this money into efficiency studios or something different buy us something more on the whole?"

But, as Council member Rosemary Stasek pointed out, the money is not being directed for a specific housing project and can be returned to the various public agencies at any time.

"This money doesn't get spent unless we spend it," she said. "Tonight's action provides us with tools and doesn't lock us in at any point."

In fact, not issuing the debt would prohibit future city councils from spending the Revitalization Authority's money on low-income housing, Stasek added.

Mayor Mike Kasperzak also expressed support for initiating the debt because it is one of the purposes of the Revitalization Authority, a downtown agency set up by the state that uses property taxes above the 1969 level on improving the downtown.

"We have an ability to create something that everyone knows is vital in our community," he said.

In its motion last month, the council also agreed to issue $1 million of debt to pay for downtown capital replacement needs such as the parking structure elevator and street light poles.

E-mail Candice Shih at cshih@mv-voice.com


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