Several budget amendments will free up $1.4 million in Healdsburg’s Measure T funds to support a number of new city projects and initiatives such as homeless support and planning, targeted business loan forgiveness and universal basic income among others.
The city’s 2021-22 fiscal year budget amendments were approved, with some modifications, by the Healdsburg City Council on Sept. 7.
The changes are made possible by a $2,833,576 economic impact payment from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021.
Congress passed ARPA earlier this year in an effort to mitigate economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city of Healdsburg has already received $1,416,788 of the total amount and will receive an additional $1,416,788 between May and July of 2022.
According to the city’s agenda item report, ARPA funds can be used for supporting public health expenditures by funding COVID-19 mitigation efforts, medical expenses, behavioral healthcare and public health and safety staff; addressing negative economic impacts caused by COVID-19 including economic harms to workers, households, small businesses, impacted industries and the public sector; replacing lost public sector revenue; providing government services to the extent of the reduction experienced due to the pandemic; provide premium pay for essential workers; offering support to those who have borne the greatest health risks; and investing in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.
After consideration, city staff proposed an allocation of $1.4 million in ARPA funds to existing programmatic costs — such as sidewalk repair, pavement maintenance and public safety position and support funding — that are currently budgeted to be funded by Measure T. Measure T, also known as Measure V, is the city’s half-cent sales tax.
This move frees up an equivalent $1.4 million in Measure T dollars that can be used to fund numerous programs and projects previously identified and discussed by staff and city council
City staff recommended the following projects for the $1.4 million Measure T allocation, though some allocations were changed following council discussion:
- Housing Element: $180,000 to begin updating the city’s housing element.
- Equity initiatives: $75,000 for hiring a qualified consultant to support the development and implementation of equity initiatives.
- Homeless support and planning: $25,000 for the implementation of some of the objectives identified in the North County Strategic Plan. This would include providing funding to Reach for Home to cover staff costs related to finding suitable locations for a potential shelter in the north county and for outreach to the Healdsburg faith-based community to develop partnerships and programs that will increase the capacity of the community to address homelessness. Additionally, a portion of this funding will be provided to Reach for Home to fund immediate shelter needs for those experiencing homelessness after discharge from institutions, for those that are awaiting permanent shelter, services, or treatment and for family reunification efforts.
- Targeted business loan forgiveness: $100,000 to cover losses associated with defaults on the city’s Small Business Sustainability loan program and for a loan forgiveness program for certain loan recipients.
- Recycled water delivery: $440,000 to provide temporary support for the recycled water delivery program.
- Enhanced conservation incentives: $35,000 to support drought specific conservation incentives.
- Reinstating the emergency preparedness and response position with the city: $130,000 to reinstate the city emergency preparedness position. The position will support both emergency preparedness and emergency operations center activities.
- Drought related facility management: $75,000 to support recycled water delivery to city facilities to maintain valuable tree and plant resources.
- Planning and building center counter improvements: $36,000 to update the layout of the city’s planning and building counter at city hall.
- Public Wi-Fi upgrades: $25,000 to develop a plan to upgrade the public Wi-Fi.
- Business process automation: $45,000 to complete business process automation for the city’s fleet and building maintenance operations.
- Restoring open space management activities: $50,000 to reinstate open space management.
- Community response grants/direct assistance: $200,000 to partner with Healdsburg Forever and North County Healthcare Foundation to develop a community grant program or a program that provides direct assistance or universal basic income (UBI).
During public comment, many residents spoke in support of funding a universal basic income program or something similar that would provide direct assistance to families.
Resident and local business owner Ari Rosen said there’s a need for more direct assistance and the city should allocate a larger amount of funds to the creation of a UBI program.
“I would like to see more efforts from the city of Healdsburg to combat poverty and as a business owner, I’m looking at the cost of living in Healdsburg and it continues to grow everyday,” Rosen said.
Zeke Guzman opined that basic income would barely scratch the surface of the needs of local farm, restaurant and migrant workers.
“Our farmers never get a break to bounce back from these economic blows,” Guzman said, referencing the last two years of fires and the pandemic. “This program that’s being proposed, universal basic income, barely scratches the surface of the needs of our people. When I hear a farmworker tell me, ‘I have to make a choice between buying toilet paper and a carton of milk,’ that is what we have going on in our community. I don’t want us to be blind to it, I want you to really consider allocating as much as you can, if not all, to the universal basic income program being proposed.”
While UBI was top of mind for many of the speakers, one resident said all of the city’s attention and council meetings should be focused on water and navigating the drought.
For the council, hashing out how much money certain projects should receive was a thorny discussion that went late into the evening.
Councilmember Ariel Kelley wanted to see the city fund a pilot basic income program as soon as this year.
Councilmember Skylaer Palacios felt it was worrisome that the residential recycled water program had a higher fund allocation than the direct assistance/UBI program did.
Councilmember David Hagele on the other hand, felt that the $440,000 for the recycled water program was a good amount since the city needs to recover costs that it has spent on the program.
Hagele also said he’d prefer to have a separate council discussion on UBI in order to have a more well-rounded proposal and for the council and the public to learn more about the concept and provide further input.
Mayor Evelyn Mitchell agreed and said she’d liked to see the UBI idea “fully-baked” rather than “half-baked.”
Kelley and Palacios indicated that they wanted more funds to be allocated to direct assistance/basic income.
After a motion made by Hagele to approve the proposed allocations and an amendment to his motion from Kelley that was not accepted, Kelley offered a substitute motion, which was approved by the council in a 3-2 vote.
“Item 8B allocated those funds for the project list included in the staff report. The change, pursuant to the various motions, substitutes and friendly amendments, was to shift $50k from business loan forgiveness to universal basic income and to allocate an additional $200k from next year's budget for UBI as well,” Healdsburg City Manager Jeff Kay explained in an email. “The allocation from next year's budget was consistent with the two-year plan we presented, but the resolution was originally drafted to only have them take action on the current year's budget. In effect, this change locked in funding that otherwise would have been voted on as part of the upcoming budget discussions in the spring.”