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Shortly after I was elected to the City Council, we set a policy that we would balance our budget without the use of reserves over a three-year period. Earlier this month, we were presented with a draft budget that does just that. Problem solved. Well, not really. The budget and our five-year projections show a balanced budget only for two years and then after that, we are back in a deficit spending situation to the tune of about $1 million per year. The reason for this is because we were able to balance the budget through one-time only revenue, primarily from new development in the City. Thus, although it appears that we have met our goal of balancing the budget, the outcome is somewhat artificial since the budget will become unbalanced in only two years hence. Thus, our fiscal problems are still with us.
So what are we doing about that? Let me tell you. We are working with our local businesses to modernize our business license tax. The business license tax has not been updated in a very long time and although no one likes to pay more taxes, our businesses are understanding that it is through that tax that they pay some of their share of the services we provide. The current revision being studied is not to raise the percentage assessed, but to increase the revenue cap to which the percentage is applied. That way most small businesses will pay the same, but larger businesses will pay more of their fair share. You will ultimately get to vote on this, but this one source could generate about $700,000 of sustainable revenue when fully implemented.
Another area where we are looking to develop additional revenue is future development and redevelopment. The 15-acres adjacent to City Hall, the final phases of the Pilgrim-Triton project, and a new extended stay hotel adjacent to the Crowne Plaza are all going through the planning process and if they come to fruition, they will provide additional and sustainable revenue for our City.
Perhaps the most important piece of this puzzle, in my opinion, is the economic development plan that we have named Sustainable Foster City. I have written about that before but you are about to see it get much more publicity and begin to ingrain itself in the fabric of our City. On June 6 we will be having a kick-off event involving local residents, local businesses and local schools discussing the progress we have made so far and the great programs and projects yet to come. Some of what you will hear about will be about how the City has already saved millions of dollars of costs though the development and installation of sustainable projects such as our synthetic athletic fields, the water conservation rebate programs and the LED lights that are now throughout our City. You will also hear about upcoming projects such as our solar initiative and our climate action plan out of which we hope to see streamlined permit processing and encouraged sustainable and cost saving construction methods for both remodelling and new construction.
Coming in on the heals of the kick-off event will be a series of programs at our shopping centers. Starting in the summer and continuing on into the fall, the City will be working with the local merchants for weekday and weekend events that are designed to encourage local shopping and to give the merchants a chance to show off their food, wares and products to the residents and to the people who work in Foster City. We will also be working with our other local businesses to help them to better integrate with the City and to join in public-private partnerships that provide economic and social benefit to our businesses and residents. Taking a look at the potential redevelopment of some of our shopping centers is one such possibility.
In addition, we will also be working with our largest businesses in an effort to make them a greater partner with Foster City, looking for ways we can help them to grow by creating incentives to bring synergistic businesses to Foster City with whom they can conduct more cost effective business. Incentives and investments for growth will also be explored.
We are going to call this effort "Living Local" and it will look at all aspects of Foster City on an ongoing basis and develop and implement plans to work together with residents and businesses to make Foster City a great place for us all to live, work and play. You will see this theme throughout the upcoming Arts and Wine Festival as well.
I would be totally remiss if I did not thank the Foster City Chamber of Commerce and its CEO, Joanne Bohigian, for all that she has and will continue to do to work with our great City staff to bring Sustainable Foster City and Living Local to life. It is these types of partnerships with the City that make it so we are sure to thrive in the future. I am greatly optimistic about the direction we are heading. I hope you are too.
Those are my thoughts. You can always share your ideas with me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (650) 286-3504.
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