BRAWLEY — The Brawley City Council held a special meeting Tuesday, July 25, concerning the city’s contingency plan that may be necessary if the extension of the Utility Users Tax (UUT) does not pass in the November 7 election. The Council voted to put the UUT on the November ballot.
The UTT makes up approximately 15 percent of the city’s general fund or $1.9 million, according to Brawley City Manager Rosanna Bayon Moore.
The current four percent UUT will sunset in May 2018.
“We have developed a contingency plan in the event that the UUT is voted down,” said Moore. The contingency plan will go into effect on June 2018 if the UUT does not pass.
Originally instituted in 1991, the UUT began as a five percent tax to raise revenue for the general fund. In 1996, the tax was reduced to four percent. The tax affects water, sewer, trash, electricity, gas, and cable television.
The current general fund consists of 78.7 percent or $12,080,764 for employee compensation, 15.6 percent or $2,391,880 for services, 5.3 percent or $806,363 for supplies, and .4 percent or $65,000 for debt service/allocation.
According to Moore, the primary goal of the contingency plan is to provide the highest level of service with $1.9 million less in revenues.
“Our primary strategy, with operational line items already lean, is staff reductions,” said Moore. “This will result in service level changes.”
Twenty-three full and part-time employees will be laid off if the UUT does not pass, according to Moore. The staff reductions will include finance and administration, community development services, the library, fire department, and police department.
Among some of the losses to city services will be the closing of the Senior Center and the Teen Center. Del Rio Branch Library will close. Parks and Recreation will re-orient to fee for service and cost recovery. The fire department will lose one permanent fire fighter and five temporary reserves, which result in the closing of Fire station No. 2. The police department will lay off six officers, two dispatchers, and a community service officer.
According to Moore, the overall service impacts will present a challenge to the city.
“Turn around times and responsiveness will suffer,” said Moore. “Work will be distributed among fewer staff. We will transition from a proactive status to a reactive status.”
According to Moore, the presented plan will result in reducing just under the $1.9 million lost revenue.
Discussion by the council included finding other ways to reduce costs so the city can wean itself off the UUT.
Council member Donnie Wharton commented on the UUT.
“I want to thank staff for their tireless effort in development of the contingency plan,” said Wharton. “I want the public to understand that most cities have some sort of UUT and they are more, in most cases. The UUT is a fairly modest charge, averaging about $12 to most users. The decision that the public will ultimately have is, do you want these services to remain the same? If you don’t want this service level, don’t vote for the UUT. If you want these existing services levels or eventually more, then vote for it.”
Wharton went onto say that for a small community, Brawley has its own fire department, police department, hospital, etc., that most small communities do not have. The UUT helps sustain these at a high level.
The UUT has been designated as Measure W by the Department of Elections.
Additionally, on the November ballot is a question posed to voters whether the Office of City Treasurer should become an Appointed Office. This will be Measure X.