Calling the proposed Strong Neighborhoods budget for the coming year “very bleak,” Director Kip Harkness also told CNAC members at a meeting on September 22 that he also believes that the recently approved Business Plan will get the program through the next two years.
The Strong Neighborhoods director explained that the newly released Redevelopment Budget provides no new money for neighborhood projects and that some “shovel ready” projects that were included in the budget a few weeks ago were pulled out because of projected revenue shortfalls.
The Redevelopment Agency released the ProposedRevised Capitial Budget and 3-Year Spending Plan on September 16, based on lower than expected projected tax revenues, forcing SJRA Executive Director Harry Mavrogenes to layoff 14 employees, including two Strong Neighborhoods staff members. Team Manager Sal Alvarez and Development Specialist Jennifer Kim Luc were among the employees let go on September 22.
“The last thing that I wanted to do as a director is to let people like that go out the door,” Harkness said at the meeting.
Harkness said future Strong Neighborhoods funding would depend on finding new revenue sources, incliuding a proposal to take tax increment funding from the Strong Neighborhoods Project Area. That proposal would require amending the Strong Neighborhoods Initiative Plan, a complicated process that would take a year to complete and would include public input.
The dire budget news comes at a time when Strong Neighborhoods is starting to implement its Business Plan, which got the City Council’s approval in August. The plan focuses on four goals.
The CNAC board formed Working Groups focused on those goals and also elected officers and approved interim bylaws at the three-hour meeting. Sandra Soellner, South University Neighborhoods, was elected president; Elsie Aranda, East Valley/680 Communities, vice president; Mark Warlick, Blackford, secretary and Pete Kolstad, Market/Almaden, secretary.
On September 28, the San Jose City Council will hear a progress report on the five-year Strong Neighborhoods Initiative Implementation Plan. The Council will also take action on the proposed Redevelopment Agency Budget in the coming weeks.