MORAGA -- Last year, the Town Council saw a report detailing potential sources of new revenue. Last week, they heard a presentation on residents' values, priorities and concerns.

Now comes the tough task of trying to bring the two together.

The council on July 28 got the results of the Revenue Enhancement Community Outreach to Neighborhoods program, which included a half-dozen focus groups and an online survey of about 650 residents.

The report was the first step in implementing recommendations of last year's Revenue Enhancement Committee, which studied the town's budget and identified potential new sources of money to pay for underfunded town services like police and road repair.

Perhaps most encouraging to the council, a large majority of residents said they would be open to new taxes or fees to pay for those services -- if the need is clearly demonstrated.

The next step, officials say, is to reach out to the community and clearly demonstrate those needs.

Much of what was in the presentation came as no surprise. Moragans gave high marks to the town's "semirural" setting, schools, parks and public safety.

"What struck me -- our family has lived here now for 38 years -- was those are the same values that brought us to Moraga," said Dick Olsen, a member of the outreach committee and chairman of the Revenue Enhancement Committee. "That's pretty amazing."

What has changed in the last four decades?

"When people consistently use the word 'blight' to describe the Moraga center, and (it's) just really criticism of the fact that there are so many vacancies in the Rheem center, that's a problem," Olsen said.

To address that issue, the council authorized Town Manager Mike Segrest to hire a volunteer Economic Development Director , to be charged with improving the town's business climate.

Residents are willing to support development if it is consistent with the town's values, and say Saint Mary's College is an untapped market of students and workers whom the town should engage, according to the report.

New taxes or fees could be a difficult sell given the rough economy, said Councilman Howard Harpham, who was also on the outreach committee.

"Especially in this climate, people just hate the idea of parting with their money if it's going to go to government," he said.

And municipal finance is a difficult subject for people to understand, said Councilman Mike Metcalf, another committee member. Many in the focus groups admitted they do not know much about the town's budget, he said.

Officials say any outreach effort must involve more than periodic newsletters or e-mail blasts. Council members and others will need to go into neighborhoods and have face-to-face conversations with residents.

"Get out there and start really pounding the streets and start communicating and educating the populace that we have these problems and there is no money to fix them that anybody knows about," Olsen said. "It's going to require the public to step up, but a lot of work needs to be done before the public understands that."

Contact Jonathan Morales at 925-943-8048. Read the Lamorinda Sun blog at www.ibabuzz.com/lamorindasun.

Online
To view the RECON presentation or read the Revenue Enhancement Committee's November 2009 report, go to www.ibabuzz.com/lamorindasun.