Oakdale City Council members wasted no time appropriating Measure O sales tax dollars. The tax collection does not go into effect until April, but the council budgeted nearly $260,000 of the money at their recent meeting to keep two firefighter positions, two police officers, and operations of the senior and community centers. The adopted 2011-2012 budget included only partial funding for each of those services and hinged on the passing of Measure O to avoid cuts.
“By restoring the current level of services we are not digging further into the hole,” explained Oakdale Finance Director Albert Avila.
The City of Oakdale will receive an extra half-cent for every taxable dollar spent in Oakdale starting April 1, 2012. The city will not actually receive cash disbursement of those funds until the first quarter of the new fiscal year, after June 30, 2012. Avila and city staff are estimating that Oakdale will add around $225,000 to its general fund from Measure O revenue between April 1 and June 30. Avila explained that the city records revenues as they are earned, not as they are received. The city’s budget and actual funds can afford the additional expenses of the public safety officers and community center funding.
“This will not cause a cash flow problem,” Avila said.
Council also discussed long-term spending of Measure O income. Interim City Manager Gregory Wellman presented the council with their obligations and options regarding spending the money. He described the additional funds as a means to help prevent additional cuts and maintain city infrastructure and services. The language of Measure O requires that a resident oversight group is established to monitor spending of the cash. The measure also requires an annual independent audit.
“From what I’ve seen you have some really strong third party eyes that will be on this,” Wellman said.
No resident oversight committee has been established yet. The money for five months of two police officer and two firefighter positions, plus six months of funding for the senior and community centers, will be taken out of Oakdale general funds. The Measure O revenue will go to the general fund once it is collected and it is not set aside into any special fund.
Wellman said that the increased tax dollars will buy the City of Oakdale time, but it is not a permanent solution. He presented council with city revenue vs. spending data to illustrate that the city lost approximately $1.2 million in economic based revenue from fiscal year 2007-2008 to the current year.
“Revenues have simply fallen off a cliff. It’s not as if this council and previous councils have not done anything,” Wellman said.
Strategies to reduce city spending could include a change to service levels, staffing, and compensation packages. Council did not make any decisions on the issue at the meeting. Council members also discussed the need to increase revenue by drawing new retail to Oakdale.
“It’s easier to say that than to get it here and keep it,” said council member Michael Brennan.
Brennan and Oakdale Mayor Pat Paul invited the public to submit their names for the Measure O oversight committee. Paul asked that even voters who were against the tax increase consider joining. They discussed appointing council member Tom Dunlop to the committee because he disagreed with the increase.
“We really need to be held to the task and do what we said we would do,” Paul said of spending the Measure O funds.