The board passed the operating budget of $15,266,326 and the special tax increase by a vote of 4-1, with Director Andy Su voting in opposition.
One of the biggest changes to the budget compared with 2013-14 is the allocation of $75,000 to hire a consultant to find a second water source for the town. The budget also eliminates four special events: a haunted house, saving $10,500; multicultural events, saving $7,125; a movie night, saving $1,700; and one community meeting, saving $933. The total savings is $20,258.
The special taxes are designed to provide funds for roads and transportation, public safety, parks and recreation and public works.
According to Director of Finance Gay Giles, who was appointed interim general manager on Tuesday, the burden on residents for the special taxes will increase about $80 per household for a total of $2,000 per household each year.
Before the budget vote, Su said, “I do not support raising the special taxes 4 percent this year. I crunched some numbers, and I just don’t think that raising taxes the maximum amount every year is to the benefit of our community. The challenge to elected officials is to do more with less. If we have to work with less money, we have to become more efficient.”
Su said he believed the increase in taxes would be difficult for current residents and might chase away potential residents by making Mountain House the “town with the highest property taxes.”
“We want this town to grow — I cannot support a 4 percent increase in this budget,” he said. “To say we have to pass the maximum tax every year is crazy.”
Director Jim Lamb said that even with the tax increase, the community services district still wouldn’t be able to complete all of the necessary capital improvement projects.
“We’re not spending on projects that we know need to be done,” he said. “Potholes on Bethany Road, slurrying the streets, not doing the landscaping — we have project after project that we know needs to be done. We are accumulating deferred maintenance costs.”
Lamb mentioned plans for some large amenities coming in the future, such as a community pool and a town hall.
“We’re shortchanging the future development by not having developed that revenue stream,” Lamb said.
Director Bernice King Tingle said she supported the tax increase and noted that as a resident, she too would be paying more. She said the community was still trying to catch up after the previous economic downturn.
Board President Steven Gutierrez said he typically would not support a tax increase, but the community needed the additional tax money to find a secondary water source in response to drought and water shortages.
Director Celeste Farron reminded the other board members that if they did not pass the 4 percent tax increase, they would have to go back and reconfigure the entire 2014-15 budget in less than a week to meet their July 1 deadline.
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