Rancho Palos Verdes City Council
   

TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUCIL

FROM: HONORABLE CHAIR AND MEMBERS OF THE FINANCE ADVISORY COMMITTEE

DENNIS McLEAN, FINANCE DIRECTOR

DATE: MARCH 4, 2003

SUBJECT: FINANCING ALTERNATIVES

RECOMMENDATION

  1. Receive and file this report.
  2. Authorize Public Works staff to proceed with contracting the preparation of an update to the 1996 citywide storm plan, including estimates of the cost of drainage improvements and repairs. $100,000 is included in the FY 2002-2003 budget for the cost of the preparation of the proposed storm drain plan update.
  3. Authorize Finance and Public Works staff to proceed with contracting the preparation of an Engineer’s Report for the possible establishment of a storm drain user fee. Approximately $40,000 is available in the FY 2002-2003 budget for the cost of the preparation of an Engineer’s Report.
  4. Authorize staff to proceed with the partial sewer system cleaning and video filming, which will lead to an evaluation of the condition of the citywide sewer system and consideration of adopting a sewer user fee. $350,000 is included in the FY 2002-2003 budget to conduct the sewer study.
  5. Direct staff and/or the Finance Advisory Committee (the "FAC") to take other action regarding financing of infrastructure and open space and park facilities as the City Council deems appropriate.

BACKGROUND

The Finance Advisory Committee, under the leadership of its Chair, Stefan Wolowicz, has conducted meetings with staff, Mark Mandell, the Deputy City Attorney and Joan Cox, Harris & Associates over the previous 1½ year prior to the issuance of this report. During the course of the Committee’s review of this subject, former Vice Chair, Becky Clark and Vice Chair Gina McLeod acted in the capacity of a Financing Alternatives sub-committee and met frequently with staff and the Deputy City Attorney. Although the report herein is the culmination of the Committee’s assignment made by the City Council, staff, its advisors and the Committee encourage continual development of a long-range financing plan of the City’s infrastructure.

Overview of Financing Needs

The consideration for the use of long-term ("LT") financing of infrastructure needs, as well as developing the necessary revenue sources to enable payment thereof, is based upon the following:

  1. With the exception of roadway improvements, the FY 2002-2003 budget does not include any expenditures for infrastructure improvements.
  2. The 2002 Five-Year Financial Model indicates neutral General fund reserves over the next 5 years, even though no infrastructure improvements are included. The 2002 Five-Year Financial Model includes about $2.4 Million of Vehicle License Fee ("VLF") revenue annually through FY 2006-2007. It appears as though the FY 2003-2004 state budget may include the loss of at least $1.6 Million of VLF revenue, approximately nineteen (19%) percent of total General fund revenues. In light of the potential loss of VLF revenue, the City Manager has offered a contingency plan that includes the elimination of all roadway improvements.
  3. Public Works staff presented the PVDE storm drain plan to the City Council near the end of 2001. The PVDE storm drain plan includes about thirty-three (33) projects with a total cost in excess of $10 Million. No appropriations have been included in either the FY 2002-2003 budget or the 2002 Five-Year Financial Model for the PVDE storm drain plan.
  4. The FY 2002-2003 budget includes a provision for $350,000 for cleaning and video filming a small portion of the City’s sewer system to evaluate its condition. The City may need to begin a preventive maintenance and sewer replacement effort beyond the level currently provided by the county. No provision for a preventive and systematic replacement of the sewer system has been included in either the FY 2002-2003 budget or the 2002 Five-Year Financial Model. Additionally, the county has notified the City that regulatory compliance of the sewer system rests with the City.
  5. The City Council has formed a citizen-based Open Space Planning, Recreation and Parks Task Force to assess the community’s recreational needs, including improvements of recreational facilities. The cost of improvements and related maintenance is unknown at this time, but will likely be substantial. No provision for the improvements of recreational facilities has been included in either the FY 2002-2003 budget or the 2002 Five-Year Financial Model.

Based upon the findings of the 2002 Five-Year Financial Model, sufficient revenue does not exist to make LT debt payments to finance infrastructure maintenance and improvements, as well as other necessary Capital Improvement Program (CIP) fund projects in the City. The City will need to increase its revenue sources in the future to: (1) maintain and improve its infrastructure; (2) improve and add new open space and park facilities; and (3) enable necessary LT debt payments related to financing such improvements.

Note: Finance staff and the FAC do not believe that it is prudent to rely on the potential tax revenue from the proposed Long Point Resort Project to finance the City’s infrastructure needs, at least until the Resort is operational and a sufficient tax revenue stream is realized.

Overview of Infrastructure Issues

Public Works presented an overview of the status of the City’s infrastructure to the FAC during a meeting on March 27, 2002. A discussion of the FAC’s findings follows.

Citywide Storm Drains

A comprehensive PVDE storm drain plan was presented to the City Council near the end of 2001 citing approximately 33 storm drain repair projects along PVDE. The same comprehensive PVDE storm drain plan was presented to the FAC on March 27, 2002. Public Works staff reported to the FAC that about $1 Million should be appropriated annually for the cost of completing PVDE storm drain projects, based upon a ten-year completion schedule. Because a financing source does not currently exist and the fact that General fund reserves are not sufficient to pay for the PVDE storm drain plan, none of the PVDE storm drain projects are included in either the FY 2002-2003 budget or the 2002 Five-Year Financial Model.

A citywide storm drain plan was presented to the City Council in 1996. Public Works staff reported to the FAC that at least $800,000 is required annually for the cost of completing storm drain projects throughout the City (excluding the PVDE area). Because a financing source does not currently exist and General fund reserves are not sufficient, expenditures are not included in either the FY 2002-2003 budget or the 2002 Five-Year Financial Model for citywide storm drain projects.

Public Work’s staff believes that at least $1.8 Million ($1 Million PVDE projects and $800,000 of other citywide projects) will be required annually to perform storm drain improvements and maintenance throughout the entire City. Storm drain projects generally require a lengthy environmental process, followed by a construction period that frequently stretches beyond a year.

The cost data included in the 1996 citywide storm drain plan is significantly outdated. The FY 2002-2003 budget includes an appropriation of $100,000 for updating the citywide storm drain plan, including an estimate of total project cost. The total project cost of other citywide drainage is expected to exceed $10 Million. As described previously, the cost of the proposed thirty-three (33) PVDE storm drain projects is expected to exceed $10 Million. Therefore, the minimum total cost of citywide storm drain improvements is expected to exceed $20 Million ($10 Million PVDE and $10 Million other citywide storm drain projects). A quantifiable estimate of the total cost of citywide storm drain improvements will be available upon the completion of the update to the 1996 citywide storm drain plan. If approved, staff anticipates that the update will be completed prior to the end of 2003.

San Ramon Storm Drain Project – A Lesson Learned About Using General Fund Reserves

The City is on the verge of completing the emergency San Ramon (PVDE area) storm drain project. The original budget for the project was about $1 Million. The final cost is expected to reach nearly $4 Million. Several important lessons were learned as a result of this project experience:

  1. The terrain and the geology of the City include unstable hillside slopes, canyons, rocks and high water tables. Therefore, pre-construction engineering cost estimates are frequently underestimated. Therefore, using General fund monies to finance storm drain projects runs the risk of depleting General fund reserves in the event unknown or unexpected costs exceed engineering estimates. The cost of the San Ramon Storm Drain project alone will exceed fifty-five (55%) percent of General fund reserves.
  2. The cost of replacing an existing storm drain facility in the future, rather than repairing it now, could be 5-10 times current costs.
  3. General fund reserves (alone) are not sufficient to finance the cost of the City’s storm drain projects.

Citywide Sewer System

The County of Los Angeles has maintained the City’s sewer system since its incorporation in 1973. Each residential property owner currently pays $18 annually for sewer services provided by the county. Comparatively, the Wastewater User Charge Survey Report issued by the State Water Resources Control Board in May 2002 indicates that similar California cities charge up to $200 annually. The county’s maintenance effort includes periodic lifting of manhole covers to verify that sewage is flowing, as well as repairs of breakages. The county does not perform video inspection of the sewer lines as a part of a preventive maintenance plan. No plan for systematic replacement of sewer lines exists. The $18 annual assessment is not sufficient to set aside monies for a preventive line segment replacement program.

A significant portion of the sewer system is more than fifty (50) years old. More than half of the City’s lift (pumping) stations are beyond their estimated useful life (25 years).

Staff is aware of twelve (12) reported sewer overflows during the last two years. Additionally, the county has notified the City that regulatory compliance of the sewer system rests with the City.

As you may recall, the FY 2002-2003 budget includes $350,000 to conduct initial cleaning and video inspection of critical sections of the sewer system. The video filming will provide staff with a first impression about the condition of the City’s sewer system and establish a baseline for the development of a sewer plan based upon preventive maintenance and scheduled line replacement. It’s expected that the County would be contracted to provide the additional cleaning and video inspection of critical sections of the sewer system.

Public Works staff reported to the FAC that about $640,000 annually is required for sewer cleaning, video filming and repairs, subject to the findings of the pending sewer system inspection. The estimate is based on a ten (10) year cycle, including line cleaning at an estimated cost of $.70 per linear foot, video inspection at an estimated cost of $1 per linear foot and line replacement based upon $75 per linear foot. Because the City currently has no funding source for a supplemental sewer maintenance plan, it has not been included in future years of the 2002 Five-Year Financial Model.

Ocean Trails Sewer Line Failure

It’s the opinion of many that the rupture of the sewer line running through the Ocean Trails Golf Course may have contributed to the 1999 landslide of three golf holes into the Pacific Ocean. The cost of the landslide repair at Ocean Trails has exceeded $42 Million. The City exists along seven (7) miles of ecologically sensitive coastline, the end-point for a number of canyons that serve as natural drains from the highest elevations of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The risk of a potential sewage spill into the ocean is a very real possibility.

Arterial Roadways, Residential Streets And Related Infrastructure

The condition of the City’s arterial roads and neighborhood streets has improved significantly over the last decade. The receipt of approximately $2 Million of supplemental county and state grant revenues (e.g. Traffic Congestion Funds) over the last several years has enabled the City to carry out several road improvement projects that would not have been possible otherwise. None of the supplemental county and state grant revenues are expected to continue to be received in light of the state budget crisis. In fact, payment of approximately $500,000 of previously legislated Traffic Congestion Funds payable over the next several years has been suspended by the state.

Each year, the Street Maintenance fund incurs expenditures of approximately $1.7 Million for maintenance activities, including slurry seal, sidewalk repair, tree trimming, and street sweeping.  As the City receives only about $800,000 from the state in the form of Highway Users Tax, the $900,000 balance of street maintenance expenditures is funded with an operating transfer from the General fund.

The Pavement Management Plan suggests that about $1.5 Million should be spent for residential and arterial road overlay projects. The City uses most all of its Proposition C (state shared transit) revenue, an average of about $300,000 annually, to pay for arterial overlay projects. However, $1.2 Million of residential street overlay activities ($1.5 Million total per Pavement Management Plan less $300,000 of proposition C funds used exclusively to pay for arterial roadway projects) are entirely funded with an operating transfer from the General fund.

If the Pavement Management Plan were strictly followed and other street maintenance activities are performed at current levels, the City would spend approximately $2.1 Million of General fund reserves to optimally maintain the City’s arterial roadway and residential street infrastructure. This is based upon $900,000 for street maintenance and $1.2 Million for residential street overlay projects.

When the voters of the City considered the re-affirmation of the City’s three (3%) percent utility users tax ("UUT") in 1996, staff represented that the tax revenue would be utilized to continue to maintain the City’s arterial roadway and residential street infrastructure and other capital improvement projects. UUT revenue was approximately $1.8 Million during FY 2001-2002. UUT revenue is not sufficient to cover the General fund contribution of $2.1 Million to maintain the City’s arterial roadway and residential street infrastructure.

Summary – Infrastructure Issues

Based upon the key assumptions described above, the projected ending fund balances of the General fund, Capital Improvement (CIP) fund and Street Maintenance fund reported in the 2002 Five Year Financial Model are expected to remain neutral over the five (5) years ending in FY 2006-2007. Therefore, sufficient revenue will not exist to make necessary LT debt payments for financing infrastructure maintenance and improvements, as well as other worthwhile CIP projects in the City (e.g. improving open space and park facilities). Unless user fees are established for storm drain and sewer projects, no restricted revenue stream is available to provide collateral for such LT debt, especially lower interest financing.

Financing Alternatives

Revenue Sources

Based upon the results contained in the 2002 Five-Year Financial Model, the City will need to increase its revenue sources in the future to: (1) adequately maintain and improve its infrastructure; (2) improve and add open space and park facilities; and (3) provide a dedicated source of new revenue to enable necessary LT debt payments related to financing such improvements. Staff offers a combination of financing alternatives to fund the City’s infrastructure needs for the City Council’s consideration. The financing alternatives have not been included in either the FY 2002-2003 budget or the 2002 Five-Year Financial Model. The City Council and property owners of the City could elect to:

  1. Establish a citywide storm drain user fee.
  2. Establish a citywide sewer user fee (if necessary).
  3. Propose an override ad valorem tax or a Mello-Roos Bond special tax to the voters for the sole purpose of financing a "wish list" of improvements of interest to the community. As an alternative, a citywide park benefit assessment district could be created to pay for a portion of the cost of the City's effort to maintain, repair, and improve open space and park facilities. In addition, the city will continue to pursue grant funds and solicit sponsorship in exchange for the exclusive facility naming rights of City open space and park facilities. 
  4. An increase the UUT rate could be proposed to the voters to finance additional services, possibly including the maintenance of and improvements to the City’s arterial roadway and residential street infrastructure or a "wish list" of improvements of interest to the community, including improvements to park and open space facilities.

In connection with the options described above, the City should consider the issuance of LT debt to spread the payment of infrastructure costs over twenty (20) years or more.

Establishing A Citywide Storm Drain User Fee

Storm drain user fees are a common revenue source used by cities to pay for the cost of maintaining and improving storm drain facilities. Generally, an enterprise fund is created to account for the revenue stream, operating expenditures, as well as the payment of debt borrowed to finance drainage improvements.

A "property-related" fee may be imposed upon each parcel of real property to which a storm drain system is available in accordance with Article XIIID of the California Constitution ("Proposition 218"). The procedure used to establish a storm drain user fee include:

    1. The preparation of an Engineer’s rate structure analysis report;
    2. Mailing a notice of public hearing to each property owner forty-five (45) days prior to the hearing;
    3. Conducting a public hearing;
    4. If no majority protest occurs, mailing ballots to all property owners forty-five (45) days prior to tallying of ballots during a public hearing; and
    5. If a majority of ballots returned approve the user fee, the fee may be confirmed.

No preliminary analysis, estimate or preliminary computation of a possible user fee/per property has been prepared. To avoid the possibility of providing erroneous information to the public, the City’s professional advisors have recommended that user fee estimates not be presented until the final Engineer’s rate structure analysis report is prepared. This report includes a recommendation to proceed with: 1) the preparation of an update to the 1996 citywide storm plan, including estimates of the cost of drainage improvements and repairs; and 2) the preparation of the Engineer’s rate structure analysis report. If approved, staff anticipates that both the update and the rate structure analysis will be completed prior to the end of 2003.

Staff recently conducted an informal survey of California cities to determine whether or not they charge a user fee to pay for the cost of maintaining their storm drain system. A summary of the results follows:

 

Do you charge 

Are you 

 

a Storm Drain 

considering 

Agency 

User Fee? 

one? 

Apple Valley

Yes

N/A

Bakersfield

Yes

No

Camarillo 

Yes

N/A

Colton

Yes

N/A

Cotati

No

Yes

Elk Grove

Yes

N/A

Grand Terrace

No

No

Hermosa Beach

No

No

Highland

Yes

N/A

La Habra

No

No

Laguna Beach

No

No

Lake Forest

No

No

Long Beach

No

No

Manhattan Beach 

Yes

N/A

Millbrae

Yes

N/A

Napa

Yes

N/A

Palos Verdes Estates

No

No

Porterville

Yes

Yes

Redondo Beach 

Yes

N/A

Rolling Hills Estates

No

No

San Carlos

Yes

N/A

San Clemente 

Yes

N/A

San Jacinto

No

No

San Marcos

Mello Roos

N/A

Santa Clarita 

Yes

N/A

Tracy

Yes

N/A

Winters

No

No

Yountville

No

Yes

Summary: 

Has Storm Drain User Fee

16

 

No Storm Drain User Fee

12

Although the results presented above were not derived from a scientific survey, greater than fifty (50%) percent of the responding cities charge storm drain fees. Most of responding cities that charge a storm drain fee have hillsides and canyons like the City of Rancho Palos Verdes.

Generally, the cost of all of the improvements associated with storm drains could be spread over twenty or more years using LT debt. Additionally, the State Water Resources Control Board may be able to provide the City with low interest LT debt financing of storm drain projects through its federally mandated Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan program. Unless a dedicated revenue source is established for storm drain and sewer projects, no restricted revenue stream is available to provide collateral for such LT debt, especially lower interest financing.

A storm drain user fee could be added to the property tax rolls of each parcel of real property to which a storm drain system is available in the City. If adopted, storm drain user fees submitted to the county in August 2004 would be billed during FY 2004-2005 and fee proceeds would be received by the City in monthly installments during the months of December 2004 through June 2005.

Citywide Sewer User Fees

The Palos Verdes Estates Plan – Establishing A Property Related Sewer Fee

The following is an excerpt from the December 2002 Palos Verdes Estates ("PVE") Newsletter regarding it’s sewer improvement financing plan:

"The City Council has adopted a Sewer Master Plan that calls for an annual expenditure of $1,499,000 in each of the first 10 years. The Master Plan, prepared by AKM Consulting Engineers, estimates the cost of eliminating the "Very Poor" sewers, the "Poor" sewers, replacement of the two pump stations and replacement of undersized 6" drainage pipes with 8" pipes, to be $29.4 million., and recommends that these improvements be accomplished over the next 15 to 30 years.

The fixed assets of the City (which include streets, storm drains, sewers, City buildings) must be depreciated, and refurbished, on a continual basis and changes in government financial reporting require us to recognize these costs. The program the Committee has recommended must be revisited at the conclusion of 10 years, and updated based on the condition of the City’s physical plant. The City’s financial capacities would be re-assessed at that time; and a new financing package presented to the voters and property owners.

Today, the City levies a 10% Utility Users Tax (UUT) which expires on June 30, 2003. If the 10% UUT was continued in FY 03-04, it would cost the average household $521. The proposed 2.5% Utility Users Tax would average $130.25 per household; and the sewer fee would average $270 per household, totaling $400.25."

It’s noteworthy that PVE has established a Sewer Master Plan, including the proposed adoption of a sewer user fee. The FAC also feels that it’s noteworthy that the work of PVE’s Committee was limited to the Sewer Master Plan, rather than the City’s entire infrastructure.

Most California municipalities have established an enterprise operation, funded by user fees, for maintenance of local sewers. User fees may be established through a public hearing process and approval by the City Council. The fees may only be used for all or a portion of the system costs including construction, replacement, and maintenance.

As stated previously herein, the county’s maintenance effort includes periodic lifting of manhole covers to verify that sewage is flowing, as well as repairs of breakages. The county does not perform video inspection of the sewer lines as a part of a preventive maintenance plan. No plan for systematic replacement of sewer lines exists. The $18 annual assessment per property owner is not sufficient to set aside monies for a preventive line segment replacement program.

In the event the City Council ultimately decides to increase the maintenance effort of the existing sewer system beyond the current level, the City could contract with the county to provide additional services, including line cleaning, video filming and systematic line replacement. As an alternative, the City could terminate the services provided by the county and assume responsibility for the entire maintenance of the sewer system and contract it privately pursuant to a request for proposal process.

A citywide sewer fee could be established to pay for the entire cost of extending the maintenance of the City’s sewer system beyond the current level. A citywide sewer user fee would not require a vote of parcel owners. A sewer user fee could be added to the property tax rolls for all parcels in the City to which sewer service is available. In the event a sewer user fee is adopted, the mechanism for billing and collection of sewer user fees is nearly the same as a storm drain user fees, described previously herein in the Establishing A Citywide Storm Drain User Fee section.

As an alternative, with the cooperation of California Water, along with the payment of an administrative billing charge, the sewer user fee could be billed to property owners with their monthly California Water bills. The monthly billing via the water utility would likely enable quicker cash flow to the enterprise fund. There may be substantial administrative and engineering expenses required while merging parcel-based fee information with the California Water Company’s billing database. In the event that California Water provides billing and collection services for the City, the City would ultimately be responsible for uncollected user fees.

The overall cost of administration, including the amount of the administration charge assessed the City by either the county or California Water, the rate of the collection of fees and the mechanism and success rate of the collection of unpaid accounts, must be evaluated in the event a user fee is considered further to determine which method is prudent.

The procedures used to establish a sewer user fee include:

  1. The preparation of an Engineer’s rate structure analysis report;
  2. Mailing a notice of public hearing to each property owner forty-five (45) days prior to the hearing;
  3. Conducting a public hearing; and
  4. If no majority protest occurs, the fee may be confirmed by the City Council.

No preliminary analysis, estimate or preliminary computation of a possible user fee/per property has been prepared. To avoid the possibility of providing erroneous information to the public, the City’s professional advisors have recommended that user fee estimates not be presented until the final Engineer’s rate structure analysis report is prepared.

Generally, the cost of all improvements associated with sewers could be spread over twenty or more years using LT debt. Unless a dedicated revenue source is established for storm drain and sewer projects, no restricted revenue stream is available to provide collateral for such LT debt, especially lower interest financing. The State Water Resources Control Board may be able to provide the City with low interest LT debt financing of sewer projects as well.

Park And Open Space Improvements

The Open Space Planning, Recreation and Parks Task Force (the "Task Force") is currently assessing the needs of the community. The Task Force’s goal is to present its report to the City Council before the end of 2003. Although the Task Force is expected to provide financing ideas, staff offers the following broad overview for future consideration by the City Council.

Citywide Parks Benefit Assessment District

A citywide park benefit assessment district could be created to pay for a portion of the cost of the City's effort to maintain, repair, and improve open space and park facilities.  An assessment may be levied to fund the cost of special benefits to real property as set forth in a report prepared by a licensed civil engineer and approved by the City Council.  Based on a preliminary calculation provided by Harris and Associates, roughly 50% of the City's costs of park maintenance and improvements would likely be assessable.

Most park and open space operating costs are currently expended using General fund monies. Upon the formation of a parks benefit assessment district, approximately $500,000 of park facility operating costs could be shifted to an assessment district each year, saving the same amount in the General fund.

A citywide park benefit assessment district would require a vote of parcel owners in accordance with Proposition 218. The establishment of a park benefit assessment district would require the following action:

  1. Presentation of an Engineers report, including a benefit analysis;
  2. The adoption by the City Council of a resolution of intention;
  3. Mailing of a notice of public hearing and assessment ballot to each property owner subject to the assessment at least 45 days prior to the public hearing; and
  4. If, at the close of the public comments portion of the public hearing, the

ballots cast against the assessment do no outweigh the ballots cast in favor

of the assessment, then the City Council may approve the assessment. Ballots are weighed based upon the amount of the assessment against the parcel for which the ballot has been cast.

Staff recently conducted an informal survey of California cities to determine whether or not they created an assessment district to pay for the cost of maintaining their open space and park facilities. A summary of the results follows:

 

Do you have 

 

a Parks/Trails 

Agency 

Assessment? 

Apple Valley

No

Camarillo 

Yes

Colton

No

Cotati

No

Elk Grove

No

Grand Terrace

No

Hermosa Beach

No

Highland

Yes

La Habra

No

Laguna Beach

No

Lake Forest

No

Long Beach

No

Manhattan Beach

No

Millbrae

No

Napa

No

Palos Verdes Estates

No

Porterville

Yes

Redondo Beach 

Yes

Rolling Hills Estates

No

San Carlos

No

San Clemente

No

San Jacinto

No

San Marcos

Mello Roos

Santa Clarita

No

Tracy

Yes

Winters

Yes

Yountville

No

Summary 

 

Has Parks/Trails Assessment

8

No Parks/Trails Assessment

20

Less than one-third (1/3) of the responding cities reported charging an assessment fee for financing park operations and improvements. The requirements enacted with Proposition 218 (Article XIIID of the California Constitution) require the same notice, ballot and Public Hearing procedure for fee increases that are followed prior to the adoption of an assessment fee. Therefore, assessment districts have lost their popularity amongst municipalities.

Mello-Roos Special Tax

A Mello-Roos Community Facilities District could be formed to finance capital and/or operating costs associated with certain public improvements, including open space and park facilities. Such a tax could be spread amongst parcels or any rationale basis. The procedure to establish a district would include:

  1. Conducting a public hearing to establish the district;
  2. An election conducted 90 to 180 days after the close of the public hearing; and
  3. The vote may be conducted by mail or an election and requires a 2/3 vote for approval.

General Obligation Bond Override Tax

The City could place a voter initiative on a future ballot to consider the levy of a General Obligation Bond Override (property) tax. The property tax would be added to the property tax rolls, based upon the assessed property value, of all homeowners and commercial property owners. The parcel tax would raise sufficient revenue to enable payment of voter approved LT debt to finance improvements to park and open space facilities. The cost of maintenance could not be paid for from the proceeds of the General Obligation Bond Override (property) tax. A General Obligation Bond Override (property) tax would require a 2/3 vote of the electorate in an election.

Utility Users Tax

In 1993, the City imposed a three (3%) percent Utility Users Tax ("UUT") on the consumers of natural gas, water, electricity and telephone services. The tax currently provides approximately $1.8 Million of General fund revenues annually.

Several factors to consider include:

  1. An increase of the UUT would save a substantial amount of professional fees and financing costs (e.g. engineering reports necessary to form a benefit assessment district, the services of financial advisors and interest expense);
  2. An increase of the UUT to all residents using utilities may not provide a clear benefit match with cost;
  3. UUT revenue is dependent upon the revenue streams of utility companies (e.g. if electrical rates decline, so will UUT revenue to the City);
  4. UUT revenues are unrestricted General funds, therefore, can be used for a variety of projects and/or programs;
  5. UUT revenues cannot be pledged as collateral for repayment of LT debt; and
  6. Approval of an increase of the UUT rate would require a majority vote of the electorate of the City.

An increase of the UUT could be proposed to the voters to pay for a "wish list" of improvements of interest to the community, including improvements to park and open space facilities. However, the City could not commit to spending proceeds on these specific programs, and UUT proceeds must be deposited into the General fund. Both Finance staff and the FAC offer to assist the City Council, and/or the Task Force, at the appropriate time, to offer ideas to finance the expected "wish list" of improvements of interest to the community, including improvements to park and open space facilities.

Other Long Term Financing Methods

As described previously herein, cities have the ability to issue bonds and other debt instruments to finance infrastructure improvements. Issuing debt would allow the City the opportunity to spread the cost of a project over time. Terms of repayment vary, but rarely exceed the useful life of the project being financed. If certain legal requirements are met, interest on bonds issued by a local government is generally exempt from state and federal income tax, providing a significant advantage to the investor.

Qualified financial advisors, investment bankers and bond counsel should be consulted early in the debt financing process. Following is a list of commonly used debt financing methods. Additionally, staff has attached a Matrix of Financing Alternatives for storm drains, sewers and parks for your review.

State Loan Programs

State loan programs, such as Infrastructure Bank loans and State Water Resources Control Board loans (described previously herein), may be available to the City. Loan proceeds are used to finance infrastructure improvements unique to each program. Because financing only requires a City application, this form of debt probably offers the lowest borrowing costs available to the City.

However, participation in the loan program is subject to a competitive project approval process; and only a portion of the project may be funded. The competitive process favors projects that have cleared environmental approvals and are ready for construction. The state recently injected new monies into the revolving fund for the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) for worthy projects. Based upon staff’s discussion with members of the SWRCB, the City will be required to pledge a dedicated (restricted) revenue source as collateral in conjunction with obtaining a SWRCB loan. Therefore, establishing a storm drain user fee and/or a sewer user fee would enable the City to possibly obtain low interest debt under this program.

Special Tax or Assessment Bonds

If a Mello-Roos special tax or a special assessment is levied, then bonds may be issued in conjunction with that levy. Such bonds are secured by special tax or assessment revenues and are issued pursuant to the Mello-Roos Act or an Assessment Act.

Certificates of Participation

Certificates of Participation (COPs) may be used for acquisition or construction of major public improvements or equipment. Issuance only requires a City Council resolution, but borrowing costs are more expensive that other forms of debt financing. The pledging of an existing revenue stream (e.g. a sewer user fee) and real property must be provided as collateral.

Grant Revenue

The budget for FY 2002-2003 includes appropriations of approximately $3.5 Million for the Point Vicente Interpretive Center ("PVIC"), nearly exhausting the City’s reserves of Measure A County Bond funds, as well as Quimby and EET (restricted) funds. The City has been allocated approximately $875,000 of Proposition 12 Bond Act of 2000 and Proposition 40 Bond Act of 2002 grant funds. Public Works staff is expected to present a spending plan (including open space acquisition) with use of Proposition 12 and 40 Bond funds later during tonight’s City Council meeting.

Staff continually searches for and applies for grant funds for infrastructure projects and operational costs. No significant grant revenue opportunities are currently available to the City. Staff will continue to search for federal and state grant revenues.

Findings and Recommendation

Findings

  1. Staff and the FAC believe that the City must immediately implement a long-term plan to replace existing and build additional storm drain infrastructure. After reviewing several alternatives, staff and the FAC believe establishing a storm drain user fee is the most practical "revenue" alternative to provide monies to pay for storm drain infrastructure improvements. The proposed storm drain user fee should be based upon a sound estimate of the long-range cost of storm drain improvements and maintenance, as well as the use of LT debt to spread the payment over twenty (20) years.
  2. If necessary, a sewer user fee could be established to pay for the additional cost of preventive maintenance that would include the systematic replacement of the City’s sewer system infrastructure (e.g. line segments and pumping stations).
  3. The establishment of an override ad valorem tax or a Mello-Roos Bond special tax could be proposed to the voters for the sole purpose of financing a "wish list" of improvements of interest to the community. As an alternative, a citywide park benefit assessment district could be created to pay for a portion of the cost of the City's effort to maintain, repair, and improve open space and park facilities. In addition, the city will continue to pursue grant funds and solicit sponsorship in exchange for the exclusive facility naming rights of City open space and park facilities. 
  4. Consider proposing an increase of the UUT rate to the voters to finance additional services, possibly including the maintenance of and improvements to the City’s arterial roadway and residential street infrastructure or a "wish list" of improvements of interest to the community, including improvements to park and open space facilities.

In the event other significant revenue sources are developed in the future (e.g. tax revenue generated by the proposed Long Point Resort Project), user fees could be reduced proportionately.

Recommended Actions

    1. Authorize Public Works staff to proceed with contracting the preparation of an update to the 1996 citywide storm plan, including estimates of the cost of drainage improvements and repairs. $100,000 is included in the FY 2002-2003 budget for the cost of the preparation of the proposed storm drain plan update.
    2. Authorize Finance and Public Works staff to proceed with contracting the preparation of an Engineer’s Report for the possible establishment of a storm drain user fee. Approximately $40,000 is available in the FY 2002-2003 budget for the cost of the preparation of an Engineer’s Report.
    3. Authorize staff to proceed with the partial sewer system cleaning and video filming, which will lead to an evaluation of the condition of the citywide sewer system and consideration of adopting a sewer user fee. $350,000 is included in the FY 2002-2003 budget to conduct the sewer study.
    4. Direct staff and/or the Finance Advisory Committee (the "FAC") to take other action regarding financing of infrastructure and open space and park facilities as the City Council deems appropriate.

Respectfully submitted,
Dennis McLean
Finance Director

Stefan Wolowicz
Chair, Finance Advisory Committee

Reviewed by,
Les Evans
City Manager

Financing Alternatives Matrix