With a focus on road improvements, the Belmont City Council adopted a balanced budget last week for the 2017-18 fiscal year projecting $82.9 million in revenue and $81.1 million in expenditures while outlining other infrastructure projects that could be funded by the $3.4 million dedicated to the city’s infrastructure.
At its Tuesday meeting, the council decided to move $1.4 million generated in excess of the city’s target reserve to bring its infrastructure fund to a total of $3.4 million. Councilman Warren Lieberman was absent. Councilmembers also agreed to dedicate $1 million of the $3.4 million toward repairing the city’s aging roads.
Councilman Eric Reed expressed relief that the city was on the right track to start making infrastructure improvements, among them the city’s 70 miles of roads, which have been deemed “at risk” by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in 2014 and 2016.
“The budget really is a story that tells people what you think is important,” he said. “What we’re saying is important really is infrastructure.”
Dedicating $1 million of the city’s infrastructure fund to roads could be thought of as a match to the $1 million in revenue generated annually by the half-cent sales tax dubbed Measure I toward roads, said Mayor Charles Stone.
“I think that that will give us a nice start, it will really help us move along,” said Stone. “Whether or not we can continue to do that next year, we’ll find out.”
Passed in November with 55 percent of the vote, Measure I went into effect April 1 and is set to collect an average of $1.3 million annually for 30 years, bringing in close to $40 million once the measure has run its course. With $300,000 dedicated to the city’s storm drains, the tax is aimed at providing a continual stream of resources toward the $99 million in street and storm drain repairs the city has identified to date.
Replacing the sod at school playing fields, redesigning a Ralston Avenue sidewalk frequently used by Belmont students on their way to school and improving play equipment at Belmont parks were among the other items councilmembers considered funding with the excess funds.
Though Vice Mayor Doug Kim voiced support for road improvements at key intersections of the city, such as Ralston Avenue and Alameda de las Pulgas and Ralston Avenue and El Camino Real, he said he looked forward to finding ways to prioritize the projects councilmembers suggested Tuesday.
“It’s hard to argue with anything but there’s not a lot of money to go around so I think our eyes are bigger than our stomachs right now,” he said. “Everything can’t be number one.”
Stone suggested the council revisit the projects considered for the $2.4 million remaining in the fund in a subsequent meeting in one or two months.
Kim also asked for an update on when a public forum regarding use of the Measure I revenue could be conducted to gather community input on the process to repair the city’s roads and storm drains. Finance Director Thomas Fil said the process to conduct an audit of the funds and subsequently engage the public could begin soon, with revenue from the funds expected to hit city coffers as early as this month.
“With regard to Measure I funds, we talked about our desire to go public and host a workshop and really ask the public what they think about this revenue source,” said Kim. “I’d like to see that sometime soon so that can help to shape our budget priorities going forward.”
Officials also discussed updating the city’s fee schedule so they increase by a weighted average instead of adjusting according to the changes in hourly rates for the services provided. Also included in the updates were removing the tree removal fee and instating a public art fee associated with new development projects, one of Councilwoman Davina Hurt’s suggestions.
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