Following the failure of a measure to raise stormwater rates to fix San Bruno’s aging system, the City Council met July 15 to discuss other funding options including a bond measure or parcel tax or joining with other cities for a regional effort.
“We know that continuing the status quo is not acceptable. And what that means is that our system will continue to flood during heavy rains, cause property damage and risk public safety,” City Manager Jovan Grogan said.
The city undertook an effort back in 2017 to do a stormwater master plan that identified more than $30 million of improvements. Many of the city’s pipes are more than 100 years old. And in the last year, more than $1.2 million was spent on infrastructure including nearly a million dollars for when a stormwater culvert eroded part of the hillside near San Bruno Avenue and the city had to declare an emergency, he said.
Grogan introduced five options to address the costs. One was to initiate an analysis of the election results and conduct a demographic analysis of the ballot responses. And this effort would need to be funded. Two is to return to the voters with a further or additional articulation of the need and launch a second Proposition 218 process. Three is to consider a general obligation bond or a parcel tax with this effort focusing primarily on funding the master plan projects. Four is considering a special stormwater approved tax initiative, which could possibly be timed for the 2022 or 2024 elections in November. And five, a possible future regional effort as there have been conversations with other cities about having a countywide measure to look at stormwater and other items.
The three recommendations of the five options were one, three and five: the analysis of the prior election effort, to begin looking into a general obligation bond or partial tax, and to continue to have conversations with other agencies within the county and take part in any future regional effort.
“I think there was a bunch of uncertainty in this election and COVID made it much more difficult and I’m hoping that at some point our residents — we need our residents to get behind this,” Vice Mayor Marty Medina said. “We can’t continue operating with hundreds of thousands of dollars that are going to be coming out of our general fund.”
Councilmembers brought up that they wanted to know the costs first before agreeing to the data analysis, and that they would want to better understand what a general obligation bond process and the parcel tax would entail. And all members were open to a possible future regional effort.
Grogan said the staff would identify the scope of work and come back with the projected cost and timing for the demographic analysis, and that they would begin work to better understand what would be involved in the general obligation bond process and the parcel tax.
The City Council will meet again in October to discuss next steps for funding when it has this information.
The current revenue does not cover operating costs and the $30 million of needed capital improvements. Operating costs are $1.5 million leaving a deficit of $875,000. Capital costs this year was $475,000. The City Council did identify funding for the $1 million deficit in the current budget year, using one-time revenue from the federal government in Rescue Plan funds.
What remains unfunded are collection boxes of various improvements including a regional stormwater capture project and trash capture devices throughout the city to stop trash from entering into the stormwater system and then eventually being deposited into the Bay.
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