2019 Tax Measure - Memorial Park Restoration and Safety Fund

At the Town Council meeting on June 25, 2019, the Town Council unanimously approved a resolution calling a special election to be held on November 5, 2019, submitting to the voters an ordinance imposing a flat $98 per-unit special tax for restoration and maintenance of Memorial Park, over a period of 30 years.

HOW WE GOT HERE

At the December 11, 2018, Town Council meeting, staff provided an update on the public outreach efforts related to the proposed restoration project for Memorial Park, along with a recommended funding scenario that would call for a $98 per-unit special tax to fund the project and park maintenance. Following the presentation by staff, input from members of the public, and a Council discussion, the Council indicated its support for further consideration of the proposal.

On January 22, 2019, the Town Council received a report from the Town Manager explaining that staff recommended waiting to submit the measure to the voters at the General Municipal Election on November 5, 2019, rather than on an all-mailed-ballot election in May 2019.

A THOUGHTFUL, INCLUSIVE PROCESS

At the direction of the Town Council, in August of 2016, the Town initiated the Memorial Park Master Planning process, an 18-month community process that included many community gatherings resulting in multiple iterations of the plan. The final, preferred Master Plan was recommended for approval to the Town Council in October of 2017. The Council delayed the decision and asked that staff work with the users of the Elders Garden to develop a solution for the garden.

The following is a link the October 24, 2017 Staff Report:

https://sananselmo-ca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=258&meta_id=39455

Working closely with the community, staff was able to reach a compromise for the Elders Garden, and the Memorial Park Master Plan was approved by the Town Council on February 27, 2018. At that meeting, Council directed staff to return to a future meeting with options for funding the project.

The following is a link to the February 27, 2018, Staff Report:

https://sananselmo-ca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=273&meta_id=42370

On May 8, 2018, staff returned with a report outlining potential funding options and the Town Council directed staff to conduct additional community outreach. Specifically, the Council requested an opinion poll to assess the community’s willingness to fund the park project.

The following is a link to the May 8, 2018, Staff Report:

https://sananselmo-ca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=286&meta_id=44951

At the direction of the Town Council, staff and members of the Memorial Park restoration project funding committee conducted a public opinion poll along with a senior citizens-specific outreach effort to gauge resident sentiment regarding funding for the project. The polling showed support for a $96 park tax at 62.3%. with 6.2% undecided. The senior support was even higher at 84%, perhaps due to the proposed senior exemption.

At the July 24, 2018, Town Council meeting, staff presented the polling and outreach findings and recommended that the measure not be placed on the November 2018 ballot. This recommendation was predicated on the fact that both the Tamalpais Union High School District and Transportation Authority of Marin would be placing tax measures on the November 2018 General Election ballot. The Council was in unanimous agreement about the decision and encouraged staff to continue raising public awareness about the project. The Council also asked staff to return with recommendations for options for a future ballot measure.

The following is a link to the July 24, 2018, Staff Report:

https://sananselmo-ca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=298&meta_id=48047

At the December 11, 2018, Town Council meeting, staff provided a report outlining the community engagement activities that took place after the July 24th Council meeting. As part of this report, Parks and Recreation Commission chairperson Rod Kerr reported that the project had garnered the support of over 120 individuals to help work on the informational campaign. Since that meeting, the project team has continued to gather support and has assembled a Drake High School team, a team from the San Anselmo Baseball Association (SABA), and a senior citizen-specific group, among many others.

At the December meeting, staff also outlined a proposal for a $98 per-unit tax measure to be submitted to the voters at a special, all-mail ballot election to be held in the spring of 2019. The Council indicated support for further consideration of the proposed measure and the special election.

The following is a link to the December 11, 2018 Staff Report:

https://sananselmo-ca.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=330&meta_id=53304

At the January 22, 2019, Town Council meeting, staff explained that based on input from the Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers (CO$T) regarding its potential opposition to the proposed measure, staff recommended waiting for the November 5, 2019, General Election to put the measure before the voters.

The following is a link to the January 22, 2019, oral report presented by staff:

https://sananselmo-ca.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=336&meta_id=54354

THE FINANCIAL REALITIES

Based on inflationary factors in both labor and materials costs, the current cost estimate to complete the entire Memorial Park restoration project is $8.9 million. Considering the fact that the project may not be bid until the spring of 2021, this cost will most likely go up. As proposed, the parcel tax would provide $8,791,800 for the project. Additional available funding for the project includes $200,000 from the State Park Bond (Prop 68), $300,000 from the Recreation Department’s fund balance and approximately $400,000 from accumulated Measure A funding (County Parks Tax).

In addition, if the measure is successful, the funding committee foresees doing a community fundraising campaign that would target users of the park who are not tax-paying residents of San Anselmo.

RESOLUTION

The resolution formally places the Parks Safety and Memorial Park Restoration Fund Measure (Parks Measure) on the November 5, 2019, General Municipal Election ballot. The resolution contains the following proposed ballot question that would be put to the voters at that special election:

To restore and provide ongoing maintenance of 93 year-old Memorial Park, including replacing/repairing fields and playground equipment for safety, installing drainage, irrigation systems and new restrooms, improving senior accessibility with safe walkways, providing picnic areas, benches and shade trees, shall the Town of San Anselmo authorize a levy of $98 per residential unit, with a senior discount, or per 1,500 square feet of commercial space, providing approximately $500,000 annually for 30 years, with independent oversight?

The Resolution must be adopted by a majority of the Council to place the Parks Measure on the ballot.

Link to RESOLUTION

ORDINANCE

The Parks Measure is contained in an ordinance attached to the resolution. The ordinance contains the mechanism by which the tax will be imposed, including the term, discounts, exemptions, and rate of the special tax. If approved by 2/3 of the voters voting in the election, the special tax levied by the ordinance will provide funding for the restoration of Memorial Park along with an annual allocation of $30,000 to $40,000 for maintenance of the park, for thirty years. Below is a discussion of several of the key components of the Parks Measure.

Link to ORDINANCE

Senior Discount

The inclusion of a “senior discount” in the Parks Measure allows homeowners aged 65 years and older the option of applying for a discounted levy of 50% of the regular cost, or $49 per year. Although the Memorial Park restoration project has been designed to feature many age-friendly components, this exemption addresses the concern that many seniors live on fixed incomes.

Based on inflationary factors in both labor and materials costs, the current cost estimate to complete the entire Memorial Park restoration project is $8.9 million. Assuming that the senior exemption rate for the Parks Measure would be similar to the Ross Valley School District’s senior exemption utilization rate, the amount of the funding available from the tax revenue would be $8.791 million. As noted in prior staff reports, there are other funding sources available to bridge the gap to complete the entire project. Accordingly, staff recommends moving forward with the senior exemption and using a project cost figure of $8.9 million.

Tax Rebate Program

Currently, San Anselmo property owners with a financial hardship due to unemployment, a catastrophic emergency, or low income can apply for a rebate of the Town's Municipal Services (also called "General Purpose"), Pension Override and Library Parcel Taxes. The rebate program, or “hardship exemption” as it is sometimes called, defines low income at certain income levels that change each year. For 2018, these income levels were: below $34,235 for a one-person household, below $39,102 for a two-person household, below $44,002 for a three-person household, and below $48,869 for a four-person household.

If passed, the Memorial Park Restoration and Safety Fund will be added to the list of local taxes that would be eligible for the rebate program.

Tax Rate

The  Parks Measure sets the annual rate of the tax at $98. To fund the Memorial Park restoration project, the Town would issue lease revenue bonds or COPs backed by and payable from the Town’s general fund; the Town would then use the annual proceeds of the special tax to reimburse the general fund. The Town’s consultant, Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., has provided the Town with the following funding scenario based on the recommended tax rate:

Project Funding: $8,791,800 

Repayment Period: 30 Years

True Interest Rate: 3.81% 

Interest Rate Cushion: 0.50%

Senior Exemption Opt-In Assumption: 17% 

Annual Tax: $98

 Number of Residential Units: 4443

Number of Non- Residential Units: 494 

Average Annual Levy: $528,454

If passed, the annual residential unit rate is set at $98, which is the equivalent of $8.17 per month. In the polling, the $96 option received a 62.3% in the YES column, 31.5% in the NO column with 6.2% undecided. These figures were the result of contacts made with no prior information being provided about the Memorial Park restoration project. Staff believes that with a well-organized volunteer campaign, that these numbers can be increased to the required 2/3 approval level. The extra $2 is not viewed as significant from a polling perspective, but is important to meet the funding requirements.

Term

The Parks Measure provides that it will remain in place for thirty years. Previous versions of the measure included an “evergreen” provision that would keep the tax in place until repealed by voters, but based on input from CO$T, staff recommends a thirty-year term.

Oversight

Under the Parks Measure, and as required by state law, proceeds from the Parks Measure will be placed in a separate fund to be used solely to fund and finance the restoration and maintenance of Memorial Park and the maintenance of other Town parks. The Town’s Capital Programs Monitoring Committee will review and report to the Council on the use of revenues generated by the measure. The Town Council will receive an annual report from staff regarding the Parks Measure, including the amount of funds collected and expended and the status of any projects authorized to be funded by the measure.

CONCLUSION

Memorial Park will turn 100 years old in 2026. The park has been an important part of community life for generations of people in San Anselmo, and it is in severe need of revitalization in virtually every aspect. These issues will only continue to worsen over time.

If approved, the Parks Measure will allow not only for the restoration of the entire park, it would also allow the public, including the current generation of children, to be a part of the final design process to create a park that can successfully serve many generations into the future.