CONCORD -- Voters likely will have an opportunity in November to extend a temporary sales tax set to expire in March 2016.
The City Council is scheduled on July 29 to consider a resolution placing the extension of Measure Q, an additional half-cent sales tax, on the ballot. Without it, city leaders will need to identify $4 million in ongoing budget cuts that could mean reduced police services, fewer recreation programs and deferred infrastructure maintenance.
"I've really come full circle on this. In my mind, I always was going to adhere to the sunset, and then I realized that, regretfully, our economy has not revived to the point where we can do without this," Councilman Dan Helix said Tuesday.
"We need to continue to provide the level of services that we feel our citizens deserve, and the only way we're going to be able to do it is by a short extension of Measure Q."
Officials haven't indicated how long they want to extend the tax. Under Measure Q, the total sales tax rate in the city is 9 percent.
The council on Tuesday adopted the $81.4 million fiscal year 2014 budget, which relies on revenues of $85 million -- including about $29 million in regular sales tax, $11.6 million in Measure Q sales tax money and $20 million from property tax. The budget uses $8 million of the Measure Q tax dollars for operations, and puts the remaining $3.6 million in reserves.
Council members agreed to evenly split the $540,000 cost to return three school resource officers to campuses in the fall with the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. School resource officers, who are sworn police officers, work on campus and are responsible for crime prevention and investigating drug dealing and gang activity, among other duties.
At Councilman Edi Birsan's suggestion, Concord will increase its parking fines to match the highest in the county. For example, the fine for parking in a no parking zone will jump from $40 to $100, and a ticket for an expired meter will increase by $19 to $59.
"We should not be the weakest. We should not be the softest," Birsan said. "Fines are there to encourage people to behave."
While the budget includes an additional $1.7 million for full-time salaries, it also reflects savings of $625,000 from changes to employee benefits. In addition, the budget funds eight new full-time positions, including three police dispatchers, a building inspection supervisor and a vehicle abatement officer. It also increases funding for a marketing campaign to lure jobs and businesses to Concord from $40,000 to $162,000.
According to the 10-year financial forecast, the city will need to identify $4 million in ongoing cuts and use $16 million in reserves to balance budgets over that period. But that doesn't include millions more needed for roadway and street sign improvements, building maintenance and retiree medical benefits.
Lisa P. White covers Concord and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.