News from the City Manager
The condition of Petaluma's streets troubles a majority of our residents, as pavement condition continues to deteriorate.  

I experience this problem on a day-to-day basis not only as City Manager, but also as a resident driving from point-to-point in the city. People often ask me why the City doesn't fix the streets. In this month's newsletter I will start to answer that question by explaining how street maintenance is funded and how those funds are used.

On a different note, I'll also discuss how businesses go through the City's permitting process and the tools we developed to help.

In July, nearly 1,200 people read some portion of my newsletter.  I want to expand that number and make this newsletter as relevant as possible to readers. Please forward it to friends and colleagues who might be interested, and if you have suggestions for a future article, please email me at .
John C. Brown
Street Maintenance: A Bumpy Ride
How is Street Maintenance Funded?
Petaluma pays for street maintenance using three main sources of funding: an impact fee charged to the City's solid waste hauler; the City's share of Gas tax proceeds; and the City's share of Measure M monies (County sales tax for transportation).  

You support the Streets Fund in three ways: 
  • Petaluma Refuse and Recycling (PR&R) has an exclusive franchise to haul our solid waste, green waste, and recyclables.  They pay the City a Vehicle Impact Fee to compensate for the impact of their equipment on City streets.  PR&R passes that cost on to customers in our garbage bills. Of the average garbage bill of $16.84, the road impact fee accounts for $1.73.  Vehicle impact fees and other franchise fees will generate an estimated $1,315,500 for street maintenance in 2016-17. 
  • When you purchase gasoline in California you'll pay about 48 cents per gallon in taxes this year. The amount is a bit higher when you buy diesel.  The gasoline tax includes Federal taxes of about 18 cents per gallon and State taxes of about 30 cents per gallon. The distribution formula between government entities and uses is complex, but of the 48 cents per gallon collected, the City's Finance Department calculates that about 5 cents is returned to Petaluma for our local streets. The rest goes to other agencies. In 2016-17, we expect to receive $1.2 million from gas taxes for street maintenance.
  • In 2004 voters approved Measure M, a 1/4 cent sales tax for the Sonoma County Transportation Authority to support the cost of regional transportation and local street improvements. Twenty (20) percent of the money collected from that measure goes to road maintenance. So, for every $1 of sales tax you pay in Petaluma for Measure M, about 1/2 cent of that comes back to Petaluma for road maintenance. This is expected to total $428,000 in 2016-17.
Funds from these sources go into a Special Revenue Fund named The Street Maintenance Fund.  It is called a Special Revenue Fund because the money that comes into this fund must be used for a specific legal purpose. For example, we cannot use money from the Street Maintenance Fund to purchase new fire equipment or update our waste water treatment plant. This provides accountability that dollars which come with restrictions are used for their intended purpose. 
The Numbers
Street Maintenance expenditures are projected at $3.74 million for 2016-17.  We estimate income of $3.06 million, and will use prior-years' savings of $684,000 to balance. As you can see from the graphic, nearly 1/2 of Street Fund costs are to pay Street employees.  A little over 1/4 of the total goes to pay for materials such as asphalt and patching mix, for equipment rentals, and contract services.  About 1/5 is transferred to Capital projects budgets, where it is used to help pay for street improvement projects, and about 1/12 of the total goes to the pay for the cost of City services the Fund uses.  

Moving Forward
Petaluma ranks at the bottom of street condition ratings for Sonoma County cities.  In the Metropolitan Planning Commission's most recent report on pavement condition, Petaluma's overall score is 47 out of 100, which is in the "Poor Condition" category.  The Good Condition category starts at 70 (for reference, the average condition of all Bay Area roads is 67).

Our Public Works and Utilities Department recently developed a plan that shows $167.5 million's-worth of work, performed over 20 years, is the least cost alternative necessary to bring our streets up to the "very good" rating of 82.  This target was selected because it represents the least expensive scenario for controlling the costs of future maintenance.

You don't have to be a mathematician to see that the money we receive to pay for maintenance is less than the cost, or that what we have to spend each year on street maintenance is a fraction of what's needed to return our streets to good condition.  

If that weren't problem enough, gas tax as a major funding source for road maintenance is not sustainable as it is currently structured. This is because the amount of gasoline sold -- and the amount of gas tax collected -- will decrease as gasoline-powered vehicles become more fuel efficient and more hybrid and electric vehicles entering the market will reduce the amount of gasoline sold.

Some hope new Federal or State transportation initiatives may be the solution, but those initiatives would need to more than quadruple what we currently receive each year from these sources. That scenario is highly unlikely. 
More likely is that Petaluma will need to find its own stable source of funding, such as might be established through a local revenue measure. Without that stable source of funding, the condition of our streets will worsen. Meanwhile, the City will continue to maintain the streets to the best of our abilities and to the extent the budget allows.

Our Public Works Director, Dan St. John, frequently talks about this topic with community groups. If you would like to invite him to speak to your group, please contact his office at 778-4584.

3 Tools to Help with Business Permits
Businesses typically need City permits when they move into a new building or make changes to an existing one. On the one hand, this process ensures that buildings are safe and suitable for the community. On the other, it is complex, time-consuming, and often frustrating for businesses because it involves Federal, State, and regional rules as well as City requirements. 

In recent years we have developed three tools to help businesses navigate our permitting process. These tools, and the City staff behind them, provide information and support to businesses of every size, at all stages of a project. I encourage businesses to review the tools and  contact us  as early as possible in the startup/expansion process. We are here to help. 

Tool #1 - The Business Toolkit

A guide that provides extensive information about permits and licenses. It also includes business basics, a guide to City resources and a newly added section on business financing. This toolkit provides a high level overview and is meant to get you started. Check it out online, or request a printed copy by email.

Tool #2 - Open Counter

An interactive website  that will ask you questions about your project and, based on your answers, provide an estimate of needed permits and their costs. Great for scoping out requirements for a new business or for an expansion project.  Visit Open Counter

Tool #3 - Development Review Committee
These Thursday morning meetings enable businesses to discuss their projects with key staff from different departments, at one time and in one place. Get general feedback on project concepts and identify potential issues. By Appointment Only.  Learn more about the DRC or contact our Planning Division.  
Council Meetings
Citizen Requests
Petaluma Stats
The next scheduled City Council meeting is September 12, 2016. Regular meetings start at 7 pm in the City Council Chambers, located at 11 English Street, in Petaluma.

Meeting Agendas

We recently launched a tool for you to help us identify maintenance concerns around town using a smart phone app . Try it out!

Download the App

Check out a poster that shows how Petaluma compares to other Bay Area communities.  We created this poster to help market the City to out-of-town business.