Is SLO prepared for possible loss of Measure Y money?

July 16, 2014


The San Luis Obispo City Council received a staff report Tuesday on a contingency plan for the loss of around $6.7 million in annual revenue from the city’s half-cent sales tax. The council responded to the report with no deliberation and moved on to talking about an entry monument at the Highland Avenue city limit.

Measure Y, the city’s half-cent sales tax, accounts for about 12 percent of San Luis Obispo’s general fund revenue, according to the staff report prepared by budget manager Joe Lamers. If a majority of San Luis Obispo voters support a renewal of the tax in November, the revenue stream will extend for another eight years.

If voters reject the tax, though, the city will stop collecting half-cent sales tax revenue on March 31, 2015.

In the case that voters reject the sales tax extension, the city plans to address the loss in general fund money largely through cuts to spending on capital improvement projects. The contingency plan presented by city staff Tuesday included three options, two of which involved cutting $4 million annually in capital improvement expenditures.

City staff claims that it spends about $4 million, or 60 percent, of annual Measure Y funds on capital improvement projects. But, staff has changed its definition of capital improvement projects multiple times and now includes routine maintenance as a form of capital improvement.

Without Measure Y money, the city would focus on covering potholes rather than paving streets, Lamers said Tuesday.

Even with Measure Y in effect, though, staffing costs account for about 80 percent of general fund expenditures. Staffing costs have more than doubled in the last 15 years, increasing from less than $18 million in 1999 to approximately $42 million currently.

The third budgeting option that Lamers presented Tuesday did involve pay cuts for most city staff. In that case, the council would strive to attain $2.2 million in employee concessions, or 5.9 percent pay cuts for all employees whose salaries come out of the general fund.

The council would have to negotiate with employee unions in order to achieve the cuts.

Regardless of how the council would go about cutting expenditures, in the case Measure Y renewal fails, it is likely that city fees would increase. Lamers mentioned in his report the possibility of city staff making up for some Measure Y money by finding new sources of revenue, such as fee increases.

“There may be options for increased user fees, fines or use of property,” Lamers wrote in the report. “Employees throughout the organization will be encouraged to surface revenue-raising options.”

After Lamers completed his presentation and two members of the public addressed the council on the matter, Mayor Jan Marx said Lamers’s report was very interesting.

“I appreciated the matrix in the back going into greater detail and really flush out the different scenarios,” Marx said.

She then moved on to the next agenda item, and no other council member chimed in.

Voters will decide on Nov. 4 whether or not the city will have to make up for approximately $6.7 million in lost annual revenue.

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“Staff has changed its definition of capital improvement projects multiple times and now includes routine maintenance as a form of capital improvement.” Thank you so much, Josh, for getting this simple fact out to the public. The city has done a bait and switch and is now claiming that EVERYTHING that involves physical work is a capital improvement project. Previously, CIP meant big stuff — new buildings, new water tanks, new this, new that, not fixing leaking plumbing and potholes. This is part of how they’re trying to sell the new sales tax to voters.

You are correct, this arrogant city isn’t actually prepared for loss of Measure G (the new name for Y). They live in a bubble, and think what people around them inside that bubble say is what’s true.

As for staffing, and pensions, there’s a lot of breast-beating and huffing and puffing among the public on this, but few actually understand the facts. This city has one of the richest pension programs of any public agency in the state! Their “public safety” people can retire at age 50 and get 3% of their top pay times the number of years worked for the rest of their long lives. We have people who retired in the 1970s still collecting! Regular employees can retire at 55 with 2.7% of their pay times the number of years worked for life! This is unheard of. Normal state employees, by contrast, can retire with 2% at age 60. That shows how out of line the city of SLO has become. THIS GENEROSITY, PUT IN PLACE BY THE CITY COUNCIL A FEW YEARS BACK, IS WHY OUR PENSIONS ARE “OUT OF CONTROL.” If we pass Measure G, that’s where our sales tax dollars will go, not for the things listed on the ballot (which are entirely non-binding anyway — just “information” about the types of things the city MIGHT spend our Measure G money on.) For the whole ugly pension story, see this website:

Public safety employees, for the most part, have the shortest life span after retirement, even when retiring early. They are also exposed to far more hazards than a cubicle jockey. There jobs, for the most part, are far more stressful. That is why their pensions seem so much better. I wouldn’t do their job for anything! They deserve the extra benefits.

Sorry but that is simply not true.

Check the link below or google it, you’ll get plenty of stories debunking this.

Measure Y will pass. It will not even be close. The citizens of San Luis Obispo are just too ignorant not to vote for this. They accept corruption, fraud waste and abuse without a second thought. Its the pure ignorance that elected Assbaugh Marxs and Hill.

You are probably right, but not because a majority of the citizens vote for it. Most elections have at most around 40% of possible voters actually voting, and if Measure Y just needs a 50% +1 of the votes it will pass with just around 20% of the citizens voting for it. Since the passing of Measure Y will continue the salary and benefit increases for city employees it will not be hard to get all city employees to vote for this, so all they need is 20% of voters who are city employees, probably not a tough job given the huge increase in staffing over the last decade.

democracy is a bitch .

How much does the city rake in from COSTCO?

I do not see how any of these Tax Increases can pass in November.

Times have changed and people just do not have the funds for more Taxes.

The Police Tax and Fire Tax defeats were just the start of a new movement.

We are Not against government or public workers.

1. Staffing Costs 80% of Budget.

2. Staffing Costs Have Doubled.

3. 18 Million to 42 Million.

It is time to realize that we need more rational budgets that balance Staffing Costs with Public Works Projects.


It would be nice if you were correct, but in SLO people will vote for a tax — unless they learn the truth about what the city has done with its Measure Y sales tax in the past. The people have been fed a lie about what the city does with that tax. It hasn’t benefited the people of the city. It has freed up general funds that previously paid for the things people want (open space, well-paved streets, pothole repair, safe sidewalks, etc.) but no additional funds have been spent for the list of things the city dangled in front of voters’ noses when Y was on the ballot. The Measure Y sales tax takes in about $6 million a year, and during its tenure staff salaries have risen by — you guessed it — $6 million a year. That’s where the money has gone. See this website:

I don’t even get involved in these discussions anymore. Until the idiots in government admit it is a SPENDING problem and not an INCOME problem, what’s the use?

@ Perspicaciuos,

Spot on!

From 2000 to 2012 the population of SLO increased 3.9%. Why did staffing increase from $18 million to $42 million from 1999 to current? “Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do” or should I say Jan?

I made a similar comment on an Adam Hill post that was suggested to me by Facebook, the only commenter being Jan. Needless to say they simply deleted my comment and blocked me from future posts.

Several reasons for the employee salary increase: 1) the Police Dept. binding arbitration lawsuit that the City lost and Police employees were awarded at a cost of $1 million annual, 2) retirement incentives that went from 2% at the age of 60 to 2.7% at the age of 55 for general unit employees and from 2% at 55 to 3% at 50 for public safety employees, 3) an additional 28 new city positions and 4) the elephant in the room called pension costs that are escalation and costing the City millions more for all these employees retiring with these fabulous pensions. Then we have a increase in contract services on top of the new employees.

We can thank Ken Hampien (City Manager), Bill Statler (Finance Director) and Ann Slate (Human Services Director) for negotiating this pension reform deal and who are all benefitting from this expensive cost change and then exited quickly with their new pension plan after it was passed. Plus, Ms. Slate is married to Fire Captain Chris Slate, Public Safety employee so they really benefitted from this pension reform. There are 19 City employees each receiving over $100,000 a year with Mr. Hampien and Mr. Statler the highest paid, 14 others are public safety, John Moss, utilities director and Paul Lesage, Recreation Director. These 19 employees alone receive $186,034.07 Monthly and $2,232,408.84 Annually. This does not cover the other worker bees retired from the City and there are 100’s. Not too long ago, this site covered a story about pension costing the City as other City’s are going bankrupt.!


Great post. But the 19 pensions above $100K are now up to 23, and that will rise with the next round of COLAs as several are right below the 100K mark. See

There’s no question that Hampian, with his $160K pension (!!!!!), who promoted the increase in pension benefits, is the prime beneficiary, and that his financial right-hand man Statler is next in line. There should be a law against this sort of crookery.

It’s called the ever burgeoning bureaucracy.

“through cuts to spending on capital improvement projects” “There may be options for increased user fees, fines or use of property,”

How come cuts to salaries and benefits are not considered as plans to address the loss if needed??????

“There may be options for increased user fees, fines or use of property,” Lamers wrote in the report. “Employees throughout the organization will be encouraged to surface revenue-raising options.”

Really, the public is not stupid. Every year the user fees (water, sewer, permits, fines, etc. goes up anyway, just check the history on these fees. When I first moved to SLO back in the 70’s water cost $3.50 per month and it included the first 8 ccf (1 unit = 100 cubic feet = 748 gallons). Now, you pay a minimum charge of $7.96 per dwelling unit and a volume charge per unit: $8.77.

Who are these people fooling. Already they are admitting that ONLY 60% of Measure Y goes to Capital Improvement Projects. But, I caution you, that in this 60%, salaries (including City Manager, Attorney, Finance, etc.) are calculated and hidden which reflects more money for the employees.

That also doesn’t count the 60% reduction of General Fund budget those so called Capital Improvement projects got before the city said 60% of Measure Y money went to them. It’s the same game government plays, say a % of money went to something on one hand while cutting it’s budget the same amount on the other. The same thing they did with schools and lottery money, give lottery money cut regular money……

“Staff has changed its definition of capital improvement projects multiple times and now includes routine maintenance as a form of capital improvement.”

Interesting read, but highly absurd to include routine maintenance as a “form” of capital improvement. Residents – is anybody out there?

Here are some standard definitions of Capital Expenditures, Capital Outlay and Capital Projects

Capital Expenditures – expenditures related to major construction projects such as roads, buildings, and parks. These expenditures are capitalized and depreciated over time.

Capital Outlay (Capital Assets) – Equipment (fixed assets) with a value of $5,000 or more and an estimated useful life of more than one year, such as automobiles and office furniture.

Capital Projects – Projects that purchase or construct capital assets. Typically a capital project encompasses a purchase of land and/or thee construction of a building or facility.