Arcata council OKs drastically cut budget, adds Open Space tax measure to ballot

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – The City Council has approved a $48 million city budget deeply impacted by the global crisis.

Sheltering in place and business closures have drastically reduced sales, use and bed tax revenue, forcing across-the-board cuts in city departments. 

The council assumed the worst about revenues in the year to come, implementing hiring freezes, contract suspensions  and program reductions.

The loss of revenue is estimated at $1,004,712, and $1,327,712 in cuts were adopted. 

The budget slashing comes even as major expenses loom, including upgrades to the city’s aging wastewater plant. That will proceed, as will a number of grant-funded projects and those not paid for via the pandemic-impacted General Fund.

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The Arcata Police Department would be reduced by two officer positions, one dispatcher and one office staffer. Three additional over-hire positions are gone, while equipment, supplies and training have also been slashed. Total APD reductions amount to $752,000, leaving its funding at about $6,304,000.

Some $150,000 could be earmarked for expansion of a homeless shelter on Boyd Road, pending resolution of details.

An updated master fee schedule was also adopted.

At its July 1 meeting, the council will consider rate increases for water and wastewater fees. The water rate hike would take place Sept. 1, and wastewater on Jan. 1.

Councilmember Brett Watson thanked City Manager Karen Diemer and city staff for delivering a balanced budget amid extraordinary challenges and uncertainties. 

Open Space, Parks, and Trails Special Tax

Appearing on Arcata residents’ Nov. 3 ballot will be a special tax measure to benefit the city’s open space, parks, trails, forests, and habitat areas.

The Open Space, Parks, and Trails Special Tax would be levied at a rate of $37 per parcel annually, raising about $175,000 per year. The tax includes no sunset date or CPI increases. Schools, churches, fire district, city and other publicly owned parcels are exempted.  

Revenues would support goals including trailbuilding, acquisitions, improvements, operations, protections, fire prevention, education, restoration, planning and more. 

The tax was extensively scoped at city advisory committee and council meetings. It is billed as a way to stabilize funding for outdoor spaces via a dedicated revenue stream, helping leverage grants and enable long-term planning.



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