December 5, 2023
During their meeting on July 17, 2023, the Mill Valley City Council voted to appoint a temporary Study Committee comprised of volunteer community members. The Committee was tasked with reviewing City finances, infrastructure reports, exploring funding options, and providing recommendations to the Council. The Committee held five public meetings from September to November 2023 and worked to produce a Report and Recommendation, which they presented to Council on Monday, December 4, 2023.
In their presentation on Monday evening, Study Committee Chair Jim Parrinello and Co-Chair Jerry Cahill presented an overview of the work of the Committee and a summary of their findings and recommendations. They also expressed their appreciation for the Committee's hard work and acknowledged the diverse perspectives within the committee, emphasizing its positive impact.
Chair Jim Parrinello shared that the Committee kicked off their work with an assessment of the City's financial strength. He noted that the City is financially stable with healthy general fund reserves. “The bottom line is, the City’s operating very well,” he said. “From a financial point of view, that will be important as next steps are taken.”
The Committee then received a detailed presentation from the City’s Public Works Department, outlining infrastructure needs in various areas, such as wildfire prevention and evacuation, streets and sidewalks, storm drains and flood-prone areas, bridges and culverts, roadway and hillside stabilization, City facilities, parks and playgrounds. Parrinello shared that the City “demonstrated, pretty clearly, that the infrastructure needs over the next 15 years will represent repair costs in the range of $150-$180 million, and the City budget does not have enough extra money to fund all that.”
He continued, “This is not something that staff sent us and said, ‘Here, take our word for it.’ We went through some very detailed reviews of studies with them, and we came away convinced.”
Over the next two meetings, the Committee vetted several revenue options. Based on the information detailed by Craig Hill and Leslie Bloom, of NHA Advisors, the Study Committee narrowed their discussion to two options: 1) Documentary Transfer and Real Property Transfer Taxes, and 2) Transaction and Use Tax (TUT)/Sales Tax, both of which would procure revenues for the City’s General Fund.
To wrap up their work, the Committee reviewed community survey results and formulated recommendations for the Council's consideration. To address the funding gap for infrastructure repairs, the Study Committee recommended:
- That Council seek voter approval of either (a) imposing a 1% tax on the sale of real property or (b) increasing the sales tax by 1%, for the purpose of funding necessary infrastructure improvements. The Study Committee, by an 8-4 vote, prefers the transfer tax to the sales tax but the Committee unanimously recommends both to the Council for further polling, study, and evaluation to determine which is more likely to gain voter approval.
- That the Council commission an additional voter survey of the two proposed measures to prospective voters in order to determine the degree of voter support for each.
- That the Council target the November 2024 general election ballot for the placement of a tax measure before the voters.
- That the Council consider incorporating guardrails in connection with whatever tax measure is ultimately chosen, including but not limited to those discussed in their report.
The Infrastructure Study Committee Report and Recommendation offers further details supporting their recommendations.
At Monday night’s meeting, several Committee members spoke on the options before the Council, providing diverse perspectives. City Manager Todd Cusimano emphasized the importance of the "360 conversation from the Committee," for the Council's decision-making process. Mayor Carmel expressed gratitude for the Committee's diverse skills and perspectives.
“We are very, very grateful to this group,” he said. “It had a great diversity in skills, and a wide range of individuals, in geography and age, and they really brought a lot of different attributes to bear in terms of being able to analyze this issue.”
At the meeting's conclusion, Council received the report, thanked the Committee for their service, and directed staff to commission a second survey, as recommended by the Committee. A Work Plan will be developed, with a return scheduled in early 2024 for the Council to decide on the City's path forward for infrastructure funding.
The volunteer members of the Study Committee meet on November 15, 2023 at the Mill Valley Library.
Learn more about the Infrastructure Funding Study Committee here.