Although the impact of COVID-19 has not been as bad as it could have been, Santa Clara is still facing immense budget challenges.
With some scrimping, the City’s finance department was able to reduce a nearly $11 million deficit to $3.6 million, Kenn Lee, Director of Finance, told the City Council Tuesday night as part of his year-end budget presentation. The City’s “rebalancing efforts,” as Lee called them, included putting a freeze on hiring, training and travel.
Despite a strong year for property taxes, licensing and permitting fees and internet sales tax, total revenue for the City was down considerably. Both sales tax and the City’s hotel tax, called the transient occupancy tax (TOT), fell off. Lee said his department expects these trends to continue into 2021, with the TOT seeing a whopping 84 percent reduction.
The budget stabilization reserve took a $3.6 million hit, but Lee said the City’s reserves have “healthy balances.” Much of the money from that reserve has been used for rental assistance and small-business relief. Of the $14.8 million in cost-cutting measures, $4.3 million came from salaries and benefits.
The Council already reduced the budget stabilization reserve threshold balance from 25 percent to 20 percent of the general fund, and City Manager Deanna Santana told the Council she plans to recommend the Council reduce it another 5 percent at an upcoming meeting.
Part of the most troubling forecast is that many of the cost-saving measures used were one-time solutions, so, should the pandemic persist, moving forward City employees will have to continue to find others.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor said the important thing for the City is to continue to provide the level of service to which its citizens are accustomed, adding that revenue streams are also very important.
“We are far better off than some of our neighbors, and hopefully, we can weather the storm,” she said.
Pomeroy Green Has Council Blessing in Historic Designation
The Council unanimously agreed to recommend that the state approve an application to list Pomeroy Green Townhouses on the National Register of Historic Places. The 78-townhome co-op is located on the northeast corner of Pomeroy Avenue and Benton Street.
If approved by the state, the designation would require nearby developments to undergo increased scrutiny as part of its California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) analysis.
Discussions over the historic value of the townhomes began more than three years ago when several Pomeroy Green residents — including Ken Kratz, who submitted the application for the historic designation — turned out to block the rezoning of a nearby development.
Joseph Eichler — a mid-20th century designer who popularized “mid-century modern” — designed Pomeroy Green. Homes designed by Eichler often qualify for historic designation. The Historic Landmarks Commission had already signed off on the application.
Kratz claims the development is already a tourist attraction for architects and that the designation will increase that as well as broaden it to other groups, such as students.
Consent Calendar Spending
The Council approved spending the following money via the consent calendar:
- $296,208 five-year contract with Long’s Custom Discing, Inc. to perform annual mowing of the City’s Eastside Retention Basin Drainage Swale
- A three-year extension to professional support services for network communications contract with GE Grid Solutions, LLC for $145,528; new contract amount: $241,278
- A $387,958 increase to a contract with Reliability Optimization, Inc for the predictive maintenance services for Silicon Valley Power (SVP) generation assets; new contract amount: $819,686
- A two-year extension of a contract with Koffler Electrical Mechanical Apparatus Repair, Inc. (Koffler) for maintenance and repair of electrical equipment such as pumps, fans, and motors, bringing the contract total to $350,000
- A $500,000 increase to extend a contract with Flynn Resource Consultants for transmission analysis support analysis for SVP through April; new contract amount: $3.17 million
- A $240,000 increase to a contract with Milton Security Group for IT support for SVP through April; new contract amount: $640,000
- A six-year, $478,174 contract with Daniel L. Sun Inc. DBA Sun-Net Consulting for support for transmission outage application software for SVP
- A $715,512 change-order to a contract with the Newtron Group for Serra Substation Construction Project
- $2.56 million for emergency repairs at the Gianera Generating Station
Additionally, Council Member Anthony Becker pulled a consent item from the calendar: a contract renewal with Jones-Lang-Lasalle. Because of Dan Fenton’s dubious reputation, Becker said he has serious misgivings about continuing to renew the contract with JLL.
The Council agreed to defer approval of the contract, which was another three-year, $300,000 contract, until a later date. Utility rates for Silicon Valley Power also saw an increase as the Council voted unanimously to increase them based on time of use. The new rates go into effect Feb. 1.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 26 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.
Members of the public can participate in the City Council meetings on Zoom at https://santaclaraca.zoom.us/j/99706759306; Meeting ID: 997-0675-9306 or call 1(669) 900-6833, via the City’s eComment (available during the meeting) or by email to PublicComment@santaclaraca.gov