• City council prefers revenue to cuts in city services

    By Marge Jameson

    In last week’s issue we reported that, faced with a $1.3 million budget gap,  Pacific Grove’s City Council and staff are examining ways to meet the shortfall through a combination of expenditure cuts and revenue enhancements. We dealt with some of the proposed cuts last week. they include staff furloughs and pay cuts, “defunding” of some vacant staff positions, service reductions such as the city’s website and tree maintenance. The possibility of further cuts to the already-strapped Museum and Library were also mentioned, though no one on the Council seemed to be in favor of the idea.
    This week we examine revenue ideas.
    Staff was directed on April 15 to refine the proposals and return to City Council on May 20, which agreed that they much prefer revenue enhancements to budget cuts.

    Public Input
    Many of the ideas put forth by the public at the March 25 community meeting have been refined and are part of the staff’s recommendations.
    One of the most popular was the possibility of allowing short-term vacation rentals of residential homes. In 1997, the City adopted a provision of the zoning ordinance which prohibited rentals of residential properties for less than 30 days, but there is evidence, according to local professional property managers, that such rentals are continuing despite the prohibition. The Budget and Finance Committee recommended that the City Council refer the matter of allowing short-term vacation rentals and adopting an annual licensing fee of $200 to the Planning Commission. Based on an estimate of 100 such properties that would take advantage of the opportunity, estimates are that the City could see additional income of $200,000 per year. It had been suggested by one speaker at the town hall meeting that such a move could generate as much as $1 million in revenue for the City.

    The Golf Course
    Also suggested at that meeting were ways to enhance revenue from the Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Course. The Budget and Finance Committee, along with the City’s golf pro, has examined fee structures for other similar golf courses on the Central Coast and has recommended that the daily fee be increased from $40 on weekdays to $42, and from $45 on weekends to $47. This increase would generate approximately $70,000 per year.

    Golf Rates for Nearby Courses
    Weekends, 18 Holes

    Pajaro Valley (Watsonville)    $80
    DeLaveaga (Santa Cruz)    $68
    Laguna Seca (Salinas)    $65
    Pacific Grove    $45
    Salinas Fairways    $32
    Pacific Grove resident    $25

    The practice of annual card rates for the golf course is under examination. Currently, residents can purchase an annual pass that enables golfers to play unlimited rounds for much less per round than the standard non-resident or resident rate. Residents can purchase such a pass for $710. If they were to play twice a week, the effective rate per round is $6.83. And anecdotal evidence, says the report, suggests that some card holders play more than twice each week. Some 8700 rounds were played by annual card holders during the June-November period. If only 50 percent of those rounds had been filled by daily fee payers, income would have increased by $200,000.
    Staff and committees are examining the option of a semi-annual card which would be available only for the slow season (December-May), requiring residents who wish to play during the busy season to pay the resident rate of $20 on weekdays and $25 on weekends.
    Also on the table are changes to the golf clubhouse use permit to allow dinner service. Currently, the clubhouse is not allowed to serve after nautical twilight. Estimates are that if the hours were increased, there would be additional revenue to the city. There would also be additional costs, inasmuch as lighting would be required for the parking lot.
    Said Becklenberg, “It’s harder and harder to justify very inexpensive golf when the City is considering closing the library and museum and employees may have to take pay cuts. We need to make sure we are using the city’s economic assets for the benefit of the entie community.”
    Fees for parades
    A recommendation which is likely to meet with stiff opposition from the public is that of charging event sponsors “during times of severe economic stress” for city services at traditional community events such as Feast of Lanterns, Good Old Days, the Butterfly Parade, the High School Homecoming Parade and the Parade of Lights, among others. The City estimates that services provided such as police, fire, and Public Works amount to $42,000 annually and suggests that in-kind support also represents “resources that could be saved, in the case of overtime hours, or that could be redirected” to services that must otherwise be done. Some of these events are non-income producing, such as the parades, or are sponsored by charitable organizations such as the Feast of Lanterns, which provides scholarships.
    Other Ideas
    Enforcement of handicapped parking regulations was suggested by a speaker at the March 25 community meeting, as were general parking enforcement and the addition of parking meters along Ocean View Boulevard. While the question of parking meters requires further study, and the involvement of the Coastal Commission, parking enforcement is recommended immediately. Staff sees an additional $5000 in revenue there.
    Other areas identified for future consideration might include:

    • Parking meters along Oceanview Blvd. from Fountain through Lovers Point Area ($75,000 / year)
    • Modify the zoning Ordinance to allow franchise restaurants ($50,000 / year)
    • Repeal or modify Measure C to allow lodgeing establishments to improve properties ($150,000)
    • Market community to attract more film events ($25,000)
    • Establish storm water utility fee ($200,000)
    • Increase Transient Occupancy Tax from 10% to 12% ($560,000)
    • Modify business license tax to increase minimum and maximum by CPI factor since it was adopted in 1970 ( $180,000)

    posted to Cedar Street Times on April 24, 2009

    Topics: Current Edition, Front PG News, Marge Ann Jameson


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