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Wednesday: Atherton council considers permit surcharge to help pay for part of civic center

Study session starts at 3 p.m. in council chambers

Adding a surcharge to building-permit fees as a way to raise money to build part of the new civic center is one of three topics the Atherton City Council will examine at a study session Wednesday, Nov. 2.

Also on the agenda: joining a lawsuit over how the California High Speed Rail Authority spends its money and reviewing a two-year-old report on ways the town can raise revenue. The study session starts at 3 p.m. in the council chambers at 94 Ashfield Road.

Surcharge

A 2012 measure approved by voters limits the public funds that can be used to build a new town center for Atherton. One source that can be used is paying for new building and planning offices with building and planning permit fees. The town has set aside $2.1 million in such fees to pay for new building and planning offices in the center. Now, a staff report from City Manager George Rodericks says it appears the cost to build those offices will exceed that amount.

The council will consider adding a surcharge of a half cent per dollar of permit valuation (what a project is expected to cost) to building-permit fees over the next several years to raise additional funds. The report says it would take less than three years to raise an estimated $1.2 million, or the town could adopt a lower surcharge and take longer to raise the funds by borrowing money to pay construction costs from its own reserves.

Lawsuit

The council will consider a lawsuit challenging a state law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 28. Assembly Bill 1889 modifies how the California High Speed Rail Authority can spend money from a 2008 bond measure approved by voters.

The staff report from City Attorney Bill Conners says the 2008 measure allowed funds to be spent only on "usable segments" of rail that could accommodate high-speed trains when completed.

The new law redefines "usable segments," the staff report says. The town's Rail Committee says the law is unconstitutional because it substantially changes the bond measure without a public vote.

Mr. Connors said the council could limit its contribution, if it joins the lawsuit, to between $20,000 to $50,000.

State law allows lawsuit discussions to be closed to the public, but City Manager George Rodericks said the council wants public input to help it decide whether to join the lawsuit.

Raising revenues

In 2014, the council asked town staff to explore how to raise revenues for the town. Now the council has asked to take another look at the report as part of its consideration of a new business license tax.

Other revenue-raising sources in the report include a utility users' tax, rents or fees for use of town-owned property, benefit assessment districts and a road-impact tax.

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