The Portola City Council held a special meeting Wednesday, May 8, to start crunching numbers and prioritize spending in preparation for the 2019/2020 budget.
City Finance Officer Susan Scarlett walked council members through a variety of departments in the budget, starting in what was termed “a fully loaded payroll,” where the first draft of the budget allots $95,000 as a negotiable base salary for the position of city manager.
“We’ve also got six months of payment budgeted for the interim city manager,” Scarlett said, gesturing toward Interim City Manager Leslie Chrysler. “That would give leeway for transition and any potential training that might occur with the hiring of the new city manager.”
Scarlett noted that she had not received any Planning Commission figures yet, and that those would be added to the budget when made available to her.
Water and sewer rates were also up for discussion, with the budget proposing a 5 percent rate increase on water. Both Mayor Tom Cooley and Council Member Phil Oels were opposed to the idea, with Cooley stating, “I would prefer not to go past the usual 2.5 percent COLA.”
Chrysler noted that for the last several years, the city had been raising rates in line with a cost of living adjustment, or COLA, and it was added that both water and sewer funds are currently more robust than in years past.
After further discussion, council directed staff to come back with a synopsis of water rates with a 2.5 percent COLA increase applied, rather than 5 percent, and council members Oels and Stan Peiler requested a synopsis without any rate raise. The synopsis is also requested to reflect a drop in solid waste collection of one dollar, bringing it from $13.23 to $12.23.
Council discussed the fact that sewer fees are currently at the maximum and will not be increased, and approved Scarlett creating a pool department in the budget, which used to be within the parks and recreation portion of the budget. This, Scarlett explained, will isolate and track pool expenditures and revenues more closely in the upcoming swim season.
City Public Works Director Todd Roberts went over his ongoing efforts to utilize non-potable water to reduce park watering fees and noted his research into grants for electric car charging stations.
As an add-on, it was pointed out that the city SCADA system, which is essentially the brain that monitors city infrastructure such as sewer levels, will need to be upgraded, and $45,000 would need to be budgeted for water, $55,000 for sewer.
Other items discussed and kept in the add-ons for the 2019/2020 budget include $10,000 toward the Sierra Butte’s City Park Party, $6,000 for Concerts in the Park, $15,000 to resurface tennis courts and replace nets, $70,000 to the Joy Way Vault, and sewer upgrades for NPDES permitting at $50,000.
After concluding the discussion of financials, Scarlett noted that the next public budget workshop would be held at the next regular meeting for public input.
Brown trout at Lake Davis
Amber Mouser, environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife also stopped in at the special meeting to garner a letter of support from council.
“We are hoping to stock Lake Davis with brown trout,” Mouser said. “There are anecdotal reports from anglers of brown trout being caught at Davis, so it is likely that they are already present.”
Brown trout were initially introduced to Lake Davis in the 1970s, and during that decade, many different species and age classes were introduced with little success. After many years of experimenting with the fishery, the California Department of Fish and Game (now Fish and Wildlife) decided to manage Lake Davis as a high-cost, low yield trophy trout fishery.
In the Lake Davis post-treatment restocking plan, the department also stated that in addition to rainbow trout, brown trout adults would be stocked in the reservoir. “Brown trout may withstand the parasitic copepods that occur in warmer weather well and tolerate temperature fluctuations from near freezing to over 80 degrees,” Mouser explained.
The trout may also offer a late-season fishing opportunity since they run in the fall, as opposed to rainbow trout, which run in the spring.
All council members were very much in support of the initiative, and unanimously agreed to provide Mouser with a letter of support.
In closing, council continued the emergency action at the Northside Sewer Lift Station, noting that the installation process had begun, with the first pump partially installed and in progress.
The city of Portola welcomes and invites members of the public to attend regularly scheduled meeting of the City Council, which are held the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m.
More information, including agendas, is available online at cityofportola.com. For other questions, call 832-6803.