As the new year unfolds, people everywhere are making New Year's resolutions to embrace fiscal responsibility in their personal lives. But have you ever wondered if your own City shares a similar commitment? At the City of Mill Valley, we have a longstanding tradition of making and adhering to our fiscal resolutions, which we’d like to share with you as we kick off the New Year.
Managing the Money
The City of Mill Valley has an annual budget of approximately $50 million. Approximately 30-40% of our revenue comes from Property Taxes. We also receive funds through the City’s Sales Tax, Municipal Service Tax, Sewer Charges, user fees, fines, and permits, among several other funding sources.
The City is financially stable with healthy general fund reserves. A policy to hold a 15% contingency reserve of prior year operating costs within the General Fund and a long-standing practice of maintaining an additional 10% buffer have contributed to this stability. The City hasn't tapped into its 15% contingency reserve in the last two decades, even during the recession and the challenging times of the COVID pandemic.
At the heart of Mill Valley's financial stability is thoughtful and transparent budgeting. The City provides accessible reports outlining revenue sources, expenditures, and financial goals. Check out the City Budget for a clear picture of how your tax dollars are put to work. To ensure accountability, Mill Valley also conducts regular financial audits, with results accessible to community members. For detailed insights, refer to the City’s Finance Reports that showcase our commitment to responsible financial practices.
We also take proactive measures to manage debt and pension obligations. An example of the City restructuring its debt to reduce interest is the recent 2021 refunding of the Sewer System Bond, taking advantage of reduced interest rates and saving over $1 million in interest over the remaining life of the debt.
The City Council has also taken significant steps over the past thirty-five years to contain and reduce current and long-term pension costs including executing reduced benefits, less costly pension formulas with CALPERS, requiring employees to pay a portion of the pension costs, and limiting the available cost-of-living adjustment in pensions.
Smart Partnerships and Consolidation
The City has a track record of many successful public/private partnerships that provide mechanisms to secure private investment for revitalization efforts. Notable partnerships include the Mill Valley Community Center and the Downtown Depot Bookstore and Cafe, and partnerships with groups such as the Friends of Mill Valley Parks and Recreation and the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce. Collaborations demonstrate innovation and fiscal responsibility, such as the recent agreement with Touchstone Golf for golf course management services.
The City also engages in shared services agreements with other municipalities, optimizing resources and achieving cost savings. Examples include creating a new Sustainability Coordinator position shared with the Town of Tiburon, and an agreement to provide Mutual Police Services Support to the City of Sausalito. The City of Mill Valley/Southern Marin Fire Consolidation is a testament to the benefits of merging agencies, eliminating redundancies, and streamlining operations for overall financial efficiency.
Effective Service Delivery
The City excels in delivering efficient, cost-effective services. From in-house expertise to thoughtful outsourcing, we optimize processes to provide the best service for our community members. For example, our Public Works Department recently used in-house skills and expertise to make critical repairs to the Bridge on Miller Ave. We also strategically outsource certain non-core functions to specialized companies such as IT management and building maintenance services.
The City is also keen on adopting new technology when it is needed, proven, environmentally friendly, and saves money. We recently acquired a new Parking Enforcement Autochalk Technology and a new online business license application program, showcasing Mill Valley's commitment to efficiency and modernization. The City prioritizes energy efficiency and sustainability, from LED lighting to renewable energy sources, contributing to both cost savings and environmental responsibility. We are a top solar generator and have installed a solar system at the Public Safety Building at the Mill Valley Community Center, and have added energy-efficient vehicles and eBikes to our public fleets. The City’s Parks division just procured new battery-powered electric blowers, weedeaters, and chainsaws.
Finally, the City invests in its people and fosters community engagement. Some City employees are allowed to work remotely, which leads to reduced office space requirements, lower utility costs, and decreased commuting expenses for both the City and its employees. Other City employees have flexible work schedules, which helps optimize staffing levels based on workload, reducing overtime costs and increasing employee satisfaction. The City also benefits from the volunteerism of our amazing community members for many City-wide initiatives and community programs. This helps cut costs while fostering community engagement.
In conclusion, the City of Mill Valley is proud of its record of fiscal responsibility, showcasing a history marked by transparency, innovative partnerships, consolidation for efficiency, and a commitment to delivering high-quality services to our residents. Just as individuals strive to uphold their New Year's resolutions, Mill Valley embraces its financial commitments, keeping in mind our mission to provide excellent services to our community with a commitment to operational excellence.
Interested in learning more? Check out our City Finances and Tax FAQs.