New revenue ideas floated at Poway City Council forum
By Steve Dreyer
Different ways to generate new city budget revenues were suggested by two Poway City Council candidates at a forum held Wednesday night held at Painted Rock Elementary School.
Gary Vineyard proposed the city voters be asked to approve an unspecified increase in the city sales tax rate. The extra money would be added to the city’s general fund, from which most city services are financed.
Jeff Mangum suggested that the city’s anticipated $500,000 general fund deficit could be partially closed if, once a month, every Poway motorist filled up his or her gas tank somewhere within the city limits rather than somewhere else.
Vineyard and Mangum, along with Steve Vaus and Councilman Jim Cunningham, are running for two seats on Nov. 6. On Wednesday night they appeared together for the third and final time. The hour-long forum was co-sponsored by the Poway Chamber of Commerce and the Green Valley Civic Association. Each candidate received in advance the six questions they were asked. The forum drew about 80 people, many of whom stayed for a Poway Unified School District candidate forum that followed. (See related story)
Regarding ideas for new revenue sources, Vineyard, a small-business owner in town, noted the sales tax rate in the city of 7.75 percent is the lowest in the county. Voters could, if they so chose, increase that rate to help fund the municipal budget.
Increasing the sales tax is the most fair way to raise new cash, he said, because the tax is paid by both residents and visitors shopping in town.
(Sales taxes are expected generate $11.7 million in general fund revenues this fiscal year. Based on the $11.2 million raised during 2011-12, a sales tax increase of one-quarter of one percent, for example, would add $2.8 million to the general fund, according to City Hall spokesman Eric Heidemann. A simple majority ballot vote would be necessary to raise the sales tax locally, he said Thursday morning.)
Vaus replied he would not support raising the tax and suggested that sales tax and property tax revenues could be boosted through improved marketing of the city’s retail and business development opportunities.
Cunningham said public-private partnerships will become increasingly more important as the city tries to find ways to finance services. He cited private contributions to the Veterans Park and Arbolitos Sports Park as good examples. Encouraging people to keep their shopping dollars in Poway will also help, he said.
Picking up on that theme, Mangum said just having motorists buy one extra tank of gas in Poway should generate enough taxes to cut the city’s budget deficit by between one-third to one-half.
Other topics covered included:
• Ground water supplies in the Old Coach area — Vineyard and Vaus both declared that they back the property owners who are contending that the Maderas Golf Club is drawing down on the ground water levels to the point where residential wells are being impacted. Vineyard stressed that the homeowners were there long before the golf course opened, while Vaus said that “residents always come first.” Mangum, who lives in the area, said he had been advised by the city attorney against stating a position but noted that his own well is dry. Cunningham promised to study both sides of the proposal by the golf course to adjust the way it draws water.
• Affordable housing – Candidates were asked what they would do about proceeding with unfunded state mandates such as providing affordable housing in the city. Vaus replied that if the program is not funded, “it’s not going to happen,” while both Mangum and Cunningham warned that ignoring state mandates can cause serious problems. Cunningham said the state could take over the city’s “fair share” affordable housing obligations build projects without regard to zoning or height restrictions. Vineyard responded to the question with, “I have no idea.”
• Helping local businesses – Mangum suggested the formation of a standing business development committee to assist the city in attracting and keeping businesses in the city. Vaus said the city needed to develop a “signature event,” such as a citywide sidewalk sale during Poway Days, to help local businesses. Free wi-fi at downtown businesses would also help, he said. Cunningham noted the council now gives local businesses a slight advantage when bidding on municipal contracts. The city should do what it can to encourage business growth, he said but “It’s not the city’s business to tell you how to run your business.” Vineyard, who has owned several small businesses in town, said that getting along with city government “is not exceptionally hard.”
• Budget priorities – All four candidates said safety services (police and fire) should have the highest general fund priorities. Mangum and Vaus advocated for more community participation in the process of determining how best to spend the city’s money. Vineyard called for the reinstatement of the fire department’s volunteer program to provide support to city firefighters, whom he said were underpaid and overworked.
• Public participation in city issues – Vaus suggested the City Council meet quarterly in different areas of the city, perhaps as part of a Town Hall. Vineyard said speakers at council meetings, who are given three minutes, should be allowed rebuttal time as well.
The forum was a bit of a homecoming for three of the four candidates, as Cunningham, Vaus and Mangum all live relatively close to the school and sent children to classes there.
Vineyard, who lives in the southern portion of town, quipped that he felt “like the only Chargers fan in a Oakland Raiders bar.”
- Four are early entrants to Poway City Council election
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- Vineyard turns in City Council candidacy papers
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- City Council forum works around no-bond ruling
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