Measure U Committee holds first meeting; has much to iron out
“Our job here is to get the Town Council a policy,” said Facilitator and Principle of Strategic Marketing Group Carl Ribaudo at Friday’s first Measure U Steering Committee Meeting; “their job is to figure out whether it’s legal.”
Approved by voters in 2010, Measure U extends the Utility Users Tax with no increase to the rate of 2.5%, and restricts the use of funds to mobility, recreation, and arts and culture. The Committee is expected to develop the policy for the distribution of funds.
As the Committee, made up of Jim Smith (MMSA), John Vereuck (Mobility Commission), Rich Boccia (MUSD), Joyce Turner (Community Member/Event Producer), Bill Taylor (Mammoth Lakes Foundation), John Wentworth (MLTPA), and Patricia Agnitch (Recreation Commission), began drafting policy its major concern was to avoid supplanting funds. Committee members took the town trolley system as an example, wondering whether trolleys funded by the town General Fund could now also be funded by Measure U. Bill Taylor voiced his concern that if they did, Measure U might turn into a “de facto General Fund.”
The Committee agreed that, in order to keep this from happening, Measure U could not supplant General Fund dollars for projects that had used the General Fund up to the date of the tax being approved.
MLTPA President and CEO John Wentworth offered an example of how Measure U funds could still be used for projects, such as the trolleys, that have traditionally relied on the General Fund: “they can use U for enhancing,” he said. “Enhancing is when you have three trolleys, you can put two more on, if you have the demand and need.”
Committee members agreed with this definition of “enhancement,” but when MMSA Vice-President of Development Jim Smith asked whether an increase in marketing would qualify as “enhancement,” there was no clear consensus.
Measure R’s (the half cent sales tax for parks, trails and recreation approved by voters in 2008) successes and failures were also at the forefront of the Steering Committee’s discussions. As Recreation Manager Stuart Brown put it, “Measure R is a good template and model to follow, but maybe the process can be enhanced and improved.”
Brown then asked, “If you receive funds from Measure R, are you precluded from using funds from U?” The Committee had no answer.
Taylor concluded, “There are some very worthy programs out there, ones I love and want to support, but they may not be eligible for U. That doesn’t mean you should turn U into a grab bag.”
The Steering Committee will continue its discussion in September, and will present an update to the Recreation Commission before taking policy items and an expenditure plan before the Town Council on Oct. 5.