Council approves amended budget, rejoins habitat plan

Gilroy City councilmen Perry Woodward, left, and Peter Leroe-Munoz, right.

Monday was a busy night for the Gilroy City Council. The Council
unanimously approved a new two-year budget
– though not before a second round of tense discussion and one
eleventh-hour addition – and voted 4-3 to opt back into a county
habitat conservation plan. Full article
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Monday was a busy night for the Gilroy City Council.

The Council unanimously approved a new two-year budget – though not before a second round of tense discussion and an eleventh-hour addition – and voted 4-3 to opt back into a county habitat conservation plan.

The new budget included a last-minute $77,226 amendment to fully fund a police school resource officer position for the next fiscal year.

The approval came following a public plea from Gilroy Unified School District board member Jaime Rosso and comments from Councilman Peter Arellano, who asked the Council to take control of the school district’s share of funding for the position.

“I think the City Council should step up and help our children,” Arellano said before the vote.

The amendment wiped out the city’s $77,226 general fund cushion for fiscal year 2011-12.

In a near repeat from last week, Arellano railed against increased funding for the Gilroy Economic Development Corporation and Gilroy Visitors Bureau, saying a portion of the $1 million the city will give to the organizations during the next two years could be better spent improving local schools and public safety.

The amended budget included $200,000 per year for the EDC and $300,000 a year for the visitors bureau, up from $96,000 and $160,000 respectively.

Arellano suggested reducing some of the proposed funding to the organizations to pay for the school resource officer and a new part-time community service officer.

“I think it’s a good trade-off,” he said, adding the EDC and visitors bureau should “provide performance and benchmarking measures” and hold public meetings so taxpayers would know exactly where their money was going.

Similar to a week ago, Arellano found himself alone on the dais as other Council members disagreed, saying information on the EDC’s and visitors bureau’s planning and spending habits would be readily available to him if he asked.

Councilman Bob Dillon, who along with Mayor Al Pinheiro serves on the EDC board, invited Arellano to attend the EDC’s regular meetings.

Dillon later made a motion to approve the budget as it was presented to the Council on Monday night – which wouldn’t include funding for additional officers – but it failed due to lack of a second.

“Let’s get out on the floor and dance then,” Dillon chuckled.

Arellano then made a motion to approve the presented budget but with full funding for a school resource officer for two years. That motion also failed due to lack of a second.

Taking a third swing at a motion, Councilman Perry Woodward suggested the Council approve the budget but with an amendment to fund the school resource officer for only the next fiscal year.

His motion was approved, and the Council voted 7-0 to pass the budget.

“Who says we can’t work together?” Pinheiro said following the vote.

Arellano also offered thanks to the U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama for federal grants that paid for some personnel and programs in the new two-year budget.

Back in the habitat

In its second big decision of the night, the Council voted 4-3 to rejoin the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan, a 50-year, $938 million plan the Council opted out of March 28.

Pinheiro, Arellano, Cat Tucker and Peter Leroe-Munoz voted for the motion, which includes a caveat that the city must have a vote during liaison meetings with other member agency representatives, something Tucker said the city doesn’t currently have.

Dillon, Woodward and Dion Bracco voted against the motion.

Cay Goude, assistant field supervisor for U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Sacramento office, drove from Sacramento to Gilroy in rainy weather to personally ask the Council to rejoin the plan, which proponents have said will streamline permitting processes for development and purchase land to mitigate its effect on endangered or threatened species.

She said the city’s questions surrounding the project – fees structures, the possibility of additional bureaucracy and whether it would actually help species – were concerns other cities and organizations had as well.

“I don’t think any of your comments were outside the scope of others,” Goude said. “The purpose of a draft plan is to get comments and make it better. I wouldn’t be here driving in this wonderful weather if I didn’t think your participation was important.”

Plan program manager Ken Schreiber said questions from the city of Gilroy as well as the plan’s other members – Morgan Hill, San Jose, Santa Clara County, the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the Valley Transportation Authority – would be used to draft “significant revisions” to the plan.

“It won’t be 2,000 pages,” he said in reference to the length of the plan’s draft. “We need to take the time to get it right.”

Pinheiro, who voted to opt out March 28 but later changed his mind, said the city needed to rejoin to at least take part in discussions.

“It gives everybody a chance to regroup,” he said. “We are the ones who decide to our future. We have to be at that table. Tonight I am going to support coming back on the understanding that this doesn’t mean we’re signing onto the plan without seeing the final plan.”

Dillon again spoke against the plan, calling it a scheme that would “take away sovereignty and home rule.”

Worth noting:

– The meeting was adjourned in memory of former City Library Commissioner Tom Engebretson, who died May 10 after a yearlong battle with cancer.

– During a consent calendar vote, the Council approved a tentative map for 15 residential lots and one remainder lot on a property owned by South Valley Community Church, located west of the intersection of Santa Teresa Boulevard and Third Street.

– In that consent calendar vote, the Council also gave the go-ahead for a new ordinance that is expected to make it easier for owners of unreinforced masonry buildings downtown to renovate and reopen their buildings by purchasing less expensive life safety retrofits instead of more expensive complete retrofits. The new ordinance goes into effect officially in 30 days.

– A tab of approximately $100,000 was also approved to allow the Gilroy Visitors Bureau to purchase the second phase of wayfinding signs.

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