According to Mountain View City Manager Kimbra McCarty, the city has “clearly emerged from the pandemic” – at least financially speaking.
Mountain View officials presented the proposed city budget for the next fiscal year at a June 13 council meeting. With city tax revenues rebounding and even surpassing pre-pandemic numbers, McCarthy said Mountain View is ready to get “back to business.”
The budget includes line items for a new city housing department, a paid parental leave pilot program for city staff, long-awaited capital improvement projects like rehabilitating the public safety building, and making good on promises to increase parks and open space in the city.
“We are more resilient than ever before,” McCarthy said.
Mountain View's stable financial position can be partly attributed to the city’s diverse revenue streams. As is the case with most jurisdictions, property taxes represent the largest chunk of the city’s general fund, at just more than 41%, or $74.6 million projected for fiscal year 2023-24. But unlike other cities, Mountain View also gets a significant portion of its money from property that it owns – some $28 million.
“Mountain View owns and leases land to various corporate and other businesses, and this is in the form of rents and leases that the city receives, making it a little bit unique from other cities in the area,” said Finance and Administrative Services Director Derek Rampone at the meeting. “The fact that the city has these additional resources has helped, over time, maintain some of the financial stability of the city, especially recently.”
Even with Mountain View’s strong financial position, McCarthy said the city will need to raise more funds to accomplish everything it wants to do in the years ahead, including the possibility of a ballot measure.
“This council was very prudent in putting a potential revenue measure on our work plan to think about in 2024, because we have a lot of very significant needs that we’re going to need to address in the future,” McCarthy said. "One of the most significant pressing issues that we have right now is the rehabilitation of our public safety building; also the rehabilitation of two fire stations that are very, very old and in need of repair."
If such a measure were to make it on the ballot next year and pass, in addition to addressing the aging public safety facilities, it would allow the city to add new parks and open spaces, implement decarbonization programs and build more affordable housing, the proposed budget states.
McCarthy said one of the most critical recommendations in the budget is the creation of a new city housing department, and specifically funding a new fulltime senior housing officer position.
“You all are aware that you just passed the housing element and thankfully we were also certified by the state,” McCarthy said as she addressed council Tuesday night. “Part of that involves 22 new projects as part of the housing element. So the new housing department is really necessary because we’re going to have to work on not only the current projects in the pipeline but also these 22 new projects that are in the housing element.”
There’s also nine projects and three land dedications specifically for affordable housing that are on the horizon in Mountain View, a total of about 1,300 units – projects that the new housing department will help manage and bring to fruition.
The city’s strong finances were also evidenced by new pilot programs built into the budget to promote staff mental wellness.
One is a new paid parental leave program that will offer staff who birth, foster or adopt a child up to eight weeks of paid leave. The pilot program is open to any new parent or guardian, not just the person who gives birth, McCarthy said. The annual estimated cost of such a program is $500,000, but the city’s setting aside $1 million in the budget to add some cushion and see how many people utilize the program.
“One of the things that we really want to focus on especially over this next year is continuing to build our great culture,” McCarthy said of the new program.
The city’s also setting aside $135,000 for mental wellness that will be split proportionally across departments. McCarthy said it will be largely up to individual departments to decide how they want to spend that money.
In addition to the public hearing for the 2023-24 budget, the council approved its strategic work plan for fiscal years 2023-24 and 2024-25 at the June 13 meeting. Top priority projects include everything from exploring the possibility of the 2024 ballot measure, to taking a fresh look at city parking regulations, to implementing programs that mitigate tenant displacement when residential properties are redeveloped.
With the public hearing stage now complete, the budget will next come before council on June 27 for final approval. Council members enthusiastically supported the proposed budget with few requests for changes.
“This is an extraordinary budget,” Council member Lucas Ramirez said. “It’s really remarkable to think how far we’ve come, the uncertainty during the pandemic, and how resilient we were then and now – how healthy we are, to a point where we’re able to meaningfully and significantly invest in the organization.”