Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

September 29, 2013

Let’s Go Down to the Levy – Sept 30 City Council Agenda Notes

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 11:08 pm

Let’s Go Down to the Levy – Sept 30 City Council Agenda Notes

The most significant agenda item is the public hearing and vote relating to the proposed FY2014 tax rates.

City Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the votes necessary to seek approval from the Mass Dept. of Revenue of the tax rate for FY2014: [Full Report]

(1) The FY14 property tax levy of $328,544,945 reflects a $11,597,175 or 3.66% increase from FY13, the lowest increase since FY06.

(2) Pending approval from the Mass. Dept. of Revenue, the FY14 residential tax rate will be $8.38 per thousand dollars of value, a decrease of $0.28 or -3.23% from FY13. The commercial tax rate will be $20.44, a decrease of $1.06 or -4.9% from FY13.

(3) As has been the practice in recent years, $11 million in reserve accounts is being used to lower the property tax levy.

(4) Approximately 74.1% of residential taxpayers will see a reduction, no increase or an increase of less than $100 in their FY14 tax bill. In addition, another 13.5% of residential taxpayers will see an increase between $100 and $250.

(5) The median tax bills show a 2.54% increase for single-family homes, a 2.54% decrease for condominiums, a 2.85% increase for two-family homes, and a 4.38% increase for three-family homes. These figures factor in the residential exemption ($215,649 for FY14).

(6) In large part due to new construction, the City’s excess levy capacity (as defined by Prop. 2½) increased by approximately $13.4 million, or 12.87%, to $117.5 million in FY14.

City Manager’s Agenda #2. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to a notification from the State Department of Revenue that as of July 1, 2013, the City of Cambridge certified free cash balance is $142,176,089.

This is the highest amount in the City’s history and represents a $26.3 million increase over last year.

City Manager’s Agenda #9. Transmitting communication from Richard C. Rossi, City Manager, relative to the proposed zoning petition regarding Medical Marijuana Regulations. [Full Report]

Basically, the plan is to create two "Medical Marijuana Overlay Zoning Districts" where dispensaries could be located. One area is on either side of Fresh Pond Parkway (including the Shopping Center) and the other is in the NorthPoint area. Related public health regulations governing these dispensaries are expected to follow.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to consult with the Superintendent of Schools and the Assistant City Manager for Human Services with the view in mind of appointing a task force to recommend an approach to four year old education in Cambridge   Mayor Davis

This appears to be an outgrowth of last week’s Roundtable Meeting with the School Committee. Pretty soon we’ll have a record number of Task Forces.

Order #8. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department to review the selection process for the Inclusionary Unit program with a view toward making the process favorable towards former and current Cambridge residents.   Vice Mayor Simmons

Order #9. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department to establish an owner’s handbook to be given to all residents living in Inclusionary Units, and for the Community Development Department to establish formal, annual check-in meetings with all Inclusionary Unit residents.   Vice Mayor Simmons

Order #10. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Community Development Department to report back to the City Council on the style, quality, and long-term care of all Inclusionary Units.   Vice Mayor Simmons

This is a curious suite of Orders from Councillor Simmons reflecting questions and concerns about the operational aspects of the City’s generally very successful Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance.

It’s worth noting that the naysayers from the "Cambridge Residents Alliance" (CRA) recently stated: "We reject inclusionary zoning as the primary way to develop affordable housing by including a small percentage of affordable units in large towers of market-rate housing. In fact, those developments have a ripple effect on surrounding neighborhoods, driving rental prices up and leading to a net loss from the city of residents who need affordable units." The CRA’s preferred approach seems to be centered on policies designed to concentrate low income residents in specific areas, especially in and around Central Square. Their thesis that increasing the supply of housing causes housing prices to rise is questionable at best.

Order #13. That the City Manager is requested to evaluate new technology methods of communicating street sweeping to residents, with the specific request that an "opt-in" text alert be sent to residents who own parking passes (and resident guest parking passes) by linking geo-coded phone numbers with locations that are to be swept.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

"No parking on the Odd side of the street or your car will be tagged and towed." – I guess that’s not clear enough for the new wave of residents who can’t survive ten minutes without their blessed little iPhones.

Order #14. That the City Manager is requested to direct the Department of Public Works to devote a greater number of resources towards the challenge of improving the cleanliness of Central Square.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

I can’t argue with the intent of this Order, but it’s really more about how the available resources are deployed than just the raw amount of resources. Also, there has to be a lot more required of those property owners in Central Square who are not doing their fair share. For example, if the patrons of the Middle East cover every post and utility box with stickers and other graffiti doesn’t it make sense that the good owners of the Middle East should hire someone to clean up their mess? It’s not right to just dump all the responsibility on the DPW.

Order #15. That the City Manager is requested to review the permitting process and any zoning and building code barriers to greater adoption of solar energy.   Councillor vanBeuzekom

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on Aug 21, 2013 to discuss the proposed "Net Zero" amendment to the Zoning Ordinance….

Councillor vanBeuzekom’s Order is the kind of energy efficiency initiative that actually makes sense in that it addresses what all property owners could potentially choose to do to conserve energy and save money. In the meantime, however, we have to suffer through the narrow focus and questionable legality of the election-motivated "Net Zero" proposal. – Robert Winters

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