City of Brawley discusses Utility Users Tax

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BRAWLEY — The Brawley City Council held a public hearing for the annual review of the Brawley Utility Users Tax and a 2017/2018 General Fund workshop at their regular meeting on Tuesday, May 16. The Utility Users Tax (UUT) will expire May 2018 and the city will put it on the ballot in November for renewal.

The four percent UUT was voter-approved on November 8, 2011 with an expiration date of May 31, 2018. The UUT is levied on utility services of telephone, electricity, gas, water, sewer, trash, and cable television.

According to City Manager Rosanna Bayon Moore, all of the funds from the UUT imposed are placed into the city’s general fund. The general fund maintains the city’s public services, including police, fire, administration, library, and parks and recreation. The UUT comprises 13 percent of the city’s General Fund.

“Our goal is to have the highest service levels possible, preserve future options, and have the greatest flexibility in the event of the failure of the UUT to pass,” said Moore.

According to Moore, as part of the 2017/2018 budget, it is proposed that the police, library, and parks and recreation departments will be restructured temporarily to not fill open positions until the November election and the fate of the UUT is known.

“The upside of this arrangement is we don’t have to reduce staffing levels in a way that affects existing employees,” said Moore. “We still have a chance to maintain the highest level of service. Cuts have been made to some positions in the past since the loss of the Redevelopment Agency funds. These cuts were significant. We have reduced some full-time positions as a result. Because of the concern of the UUT, we have not filled some positions.”

According to Moore, two large projects have been put on hold until the UUT is voted upon. The Lions Center pool needs resurfacing at a cost of $500,000 and the fire department is requesting new breathing apparatuses at a cost of $200,000. The money for the pool is available and earmarked. Grants are being sought for the breathing apparatuses.

“We definitely see some challenges ahead, but we see a pathway of working through it,” concluded Moore. “Our ability to respond to administrative issues will be slower because of distribution of work to fewer staff. We need to explain to the public what is going on.”

“I do think that we are in a solid position,” said Mayor Sam Couchman. “I want the public to know that we are very fiscally conservative. We are going to keep services at a level that is acceptable to the public, realizing that we have some limitations on our revenue. I want to thank staff for their hard work on this.”