An ever-increasing budget for the Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority has become unsustainable for the City of Sonora, according to City Administrator Tim Miller.

The Sonora City Council is scheduled to consider approving the TCEDA’s fiscal year 2017-18 budget, $460,732, an 11.9 increase from the one for 2016-17. Under a joint-powers agreement with the county, the city funds 23 percent of the TCEDA’s budget each year.

The council meets at 5 p.m. Monday in City Hall, at 94 N. Washington St.

Miller noted in a memo to the council that the TCEDA’s budget has increased by $179,608, or 77.4 percent, since its inception in the 2009-10 fiscal year. That means the city’s portion of the funding has increased from $51,391 to $87,261, or nearly 70 percent.

The proposed TCEDA budget would further increase the city’s contribution to $102,841 in the next fiscal year, all of which comes from the city’s General Fund that pays for police, fire, public works and planning.

Larry Cope, executive director of the TCEDA, stated in a memo to the council and Miller that the reason for the increase this year is due to higher contributions into the state’s public-employee pension system, building leases, and additional business attraction and marketing costs.

Language in the agreement stated that the city and county would provide base funding, with additional funding coming from “private parties, businesses and organizations with interest” in economic development and the TCEDA’s services and programs. However, efforts to obtain funding from outside sources have been unsuccessful thus far.

Miller stated in the memo, “These increased contributions are not sustainable for the city. The city’s administration has directed all departments to prepare a status quo budget for the coming year. Given preliminary projections, due to anticipated increases in expenses while revenues remain relatively constant, additional cuts may be necessary to balance the city’s (2017-18) budget.”

Miller recommended that the council should approve contributing the same amount of money as it did in the current fiscal year.

The Board of Supervisors approved the TCEDA’s budget proposal at an April 4 meeting that will see the county’s contribution increase from $271,839 in the current fiscal year to $344,292 in 2017-18, or more than 26 percent.

County supervisors praised Cope at the meeting, with District 5 Supervisor Karl Rodefer calling Cope’s salary the county’s “best investment” each year.

The TCEDA Board of Directors is comprised of District 4 Supervisor John Gray, District 1 Supervisor Sherri Brennan, Councilman George Segarini, Mayor Connie Williams, attorney Jim Gianelli, HealthLitNow President Barry Hillman, and Mother Lode Job Training Center Executive Director Dave Thoeny.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the council is scheduled to consider forming a working group similar to the one recently formed by the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors that would come up with recommendations on how the city should approach medical and recreational marijuana.

According to documents provided with the agenda, the group is proposed to be made up of five members to include two council members, one representative of the cannabis industry, one representative of the city’s police or fire departments, and one member of the public.

The county’s group, which met for the first time last Wednesday, is comprised of District 1 Supervisor Sherri Brennan; District 3 Supervisor Evan Royce; retired California Highway Patrol commander Scott Clamp; Kira Tucker of the Tuolumne Cannabis Alliance; and Groveland resident and county Planning Commissioner Jerry Baker.

While the process for appointing people to official commissions or committees requires people to submit applications unless the council waives the process by a four-fifths vote, the city’s rules are silent on the establishment of a working group for a single purpose and limited duration.

The council can decide to either accept applications, or choose to nominate candidates.

Finally, the council will also consider setting guidelines for the city’s Homebuyer’s Assistance Loan Program funded by a $494,331 grant through a federal Community Development Block Grant.

The money will assist roughly five people with low incomes purchase a home within the city, according to a memo from Rachelle Kellogg, the city’s community development director.

The CDBG program has provided millions of dollars over the years to both the city and county for programs and projects intended to benefit low-income residents. However, President Donald Trump has proposed eliminating the program in his budget for next year, citing a lack of results.

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