The financial condition of the City of Mill Valley is very strong. Even assuming another recession, over the next 10 years, the City can meet its operating costs, pension obligations and reserve fund requirements while making $2.5M in annual capital improvements.
It’s important to note that Mill Valley has the lowest sales tax, transient occupancy tax and business license tax in the county and yet its pavement conditions index (a measure of road quality) is the third highest in the county. We always strive for efficient and effective use of financial resources.
However, the City has identified a significant number of infrastructure investments, critical to the safety and well-being of its residents, that will require approximately $160-190m in funding over the next 10-15 years. Examples of some of the needed work include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Safety improvements: Preventing landslides, reducing fire and flood risk, improving emergency egress, and updated public safety facilities and emergency shelters.
- Deferred building maintenance: New roofs, foundation repairs, mold abatement, plumbing, HVAC, flooring, public restrooms, and security upgrades.
- Community benefits: Improved sidewalks, recreation facilities, roadways and bike facilities, sustainability initiatives, and supporting diversity, equity and inclusion.
With this in mind, at their July 17, 2023 meeting, the Mill Valley City Council voted unanimously to appoint a temporary Study Committee to review infrastructure reports, funding options, and make a recommendation to Council on how to proceed. View the Staff Report and Presentation.
The City’s ingoing assumption is that any new revenue and investment would be directed specifically at “hard assets” (not operating expenses), be reported out to the community on an annual basis for complete transparency and sunset after a specific period when the work is done (probably 15 years). In short, this is specifically an infrastructure initiative designed to get the City caught up with needed deferred and preventative investments to keep Mill Valley beautiful and well-functioning.
In recent years, the Council has commissioned a number of infrastructure assessments, including surveys of City facilities, bridges, culverts, storm drains, flood-prone areas, streets, and sidewalks, in order to understand the scope of its needs and the potential investment. Staff has created a page on the City website to share these documents with Council and the community and a summary in “15 Year Priority Infrastructure, Estimates & Assessments.”
The Council is very mindful that residents feel ‘tax fatigue’ and want to ensure that the source of funding best matches the community’s capacity. Funding options are typically derived from taxes or fees on residents, visitors, and businesses. Raising revenue through taxes requires voter approval, with General taxes requiring a simple majority and special taxes (like our Municipal Service Tax) requiring a supermajority (2/3 approval). They include Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), Sales Tax, Business License Tax, Transfer Tax, Ad Valorem (Property) Tax. A summary of funding options is available here: "Funding Options Available to the City.” These options will be studied by the Study Committee and a recommendation brought to Council.
Council gave direction for two Councilmembers to join as non-voting members of the Study Committee and to begin the process of appointing members. The committee's mandate will be to review the City's infrastructure challenges and craft a financial strategy. More information on the purpose, scope and responsibilities of the Study Committee, can be found here: "Study Committee Overview - Purpose, Responsibilities and Composition."
The Study Committee will consist of 9-11 residents of the City. For complete transparancy and accountability, all meetings will be subject to the Brown Act, properly noticed and open to the community. Action minutes will be recorded, and all agendas, meeting minutes and other relevant documents will be posted on the City website. The Study Committee will meet an estimated four to six times, over the next four months, when they will make their recommendations to the City Council. Meetings will be focused, with presentations and materials provided to the Study Committee members.
Ideally, committee members will have experience and expertise in the following areas:
- Real Estate
- Neighborhood Associations/HOAs
- Mobility/Complete Streets
- Sports/Youth programming and organizations
- Partner Agencies
- Emergency Preparedness
Mill Valley City residents that have experience and expertise in the areas listed above are encouraged to reach out with an email expressing their interest. Please contact Senior Management Analyst Linn Walsh at email@example.com.
Learn more about the Infrastructure Funding Study Committee (Temporary) here.