Thursday, November 22, 2007

Voters Relieve City's Worry (November 11, 2007) Rialto Relies on Utility Tax to Stay Afloat!!

BS Ranch Perspective:

The only problem is that the Restaurant Deal that was made is falling apart and will not hold! The money for the tax will be all of the money taken in to extend Pepper Ave, and many of the other contracts that will have to be filled with the Labor Union's in the City, I am speaking about the Rialto Police Benefit Assoc. They didn't take the best deal for them the last time, in hopes that this time the city Administrator, and City Council might take a nicer look at them and the hard job that was Created for them by the Vary people that are Responsible for making their job so difficult, by their actions when they wanted the Contract with the Sheriff's Department, However when that Failed the Council and the City Administration they still have not paid the people that have stayed by giving them a Well deserved Contract that will make them happy that they earned their time working through the difficult fight, instead they have fought as if they gave all the TAX money to other City Departments. ??

BS Ranch

Voters relieve city's worry
Rialto relies on utility tax to stay afloat
Jason Pesick, Staff Writer

RIALTO - Phew!

That was the reaction at City Hall to last week's election, when voters renewed the utility users tax for five more years.

Soon, development projects will come online along the extended 210 Freeway and throughout the city to improve its economy and its finances.

But those who think new projects like the 1,500-acre Renaissance Rialto development will mean the end of the tax are probably thinking wrong.

The new money the projects produce will not even come close to making up for the tax.

The 8-percent add-on to utility bills in the city provides almost a quarter of the money in the city's general fund - more than $12 million a year.

Even when Renaissance is done - the project has yet to be approved - it's only expected to make the city $3 million a year if the tax isn't in place.

"I think five years is enough time for us to put an economic strategic plan out," Councilman Joe Baca Jr. said. He said that since the tax passed, he has received a number of e-mails from residents who say they support the tax but want it spent well, and ultimately reduced.

One resident who voted for the tax said she thinks the 210 development should make the city self-sufficient without the tax.

"I'm surprised they need it again," said Angie Consolo.

The city needs to look at where it can cut costs, starting with its legal costs and the number of outside law firms it hires, she said.

Baca said he thinks the city needs to be more resourceful about accomplishing things at a lower cost and needs to prioritize projects to keep costs down.

But the city's costs will increase in a number of areas over the next five to 10 years. For example, Rialto's public safety employees have lower retirement benefits than their peers at nearby agencies, and those benefits may be increased.

Members of the council also want to improve the level of city services, especially public safety, over the next few years. And grants might run out on state-funded after-school programs, which would mean the city would have to spend millions of dollars to run them itself.

Another upcoming cost is improvements members of the council want to make to facilities, like the police department, city hall, the library and recreation facilities.

In the spring, City Administrator Henry Garcia said a planned Wal-Mart Supercenter would generate about $500,000 in sales tax revenue per year. That means the city would need at least 24 years to make up the money the tax currently provides.

In California, it's difficult for modest bedroom communities like Rialto to have a robust budget, said Economic Development Director Robb Steel.

In wealthier residential areas with higher property values and property tax revenues, there are fewer children and less need for city services and public safety, he said.

Regina Balderrama, who has lived in Rialto since 1978, said she doesn't see the tax going anywhere anytime soon.

"I think when the next five years are up they're going to put it back on the ballot," she said.

The good news for the city's budget is that now that the tax is in place, developers will find it easier to build and sell homes in Rialto, Steel said. The city won't have to charge a very high community facilities district - or annual fee - to residents in new housing developments.

The council also might be ready to increase development impact fees to fund capital improvements in the city, he said.

A number of residents say they want a citizens' oversight commission to make sure the money from the tax is spent properly.

Baca said he would support that kind of commission.

"We're an open-book city," he said.

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