At the Feb. 21 Council meeting, elected officials discussed how to spend $1.645 million in pandemic relief provided by the Biden Administration that’s still leftover.
The big winners were public access broadcaster KCAT, which will receive a one-time infusion of $100,000, Los Gatos Saratoga Recreation which was handed the reduced amount this year of $225,000 to continue its 55+ program, and $50,000 for senior services.
And Council added $150,000 to the community grant program, which received rave reviews from the elected officials.
Councilmembers wanted to wait for additional closed-session discussions before potentially offering New Museum Los Gatos or LGS Rec rent reductions.
“I think we do need to remember that we do have $1.6 million available; with the changes that we’ve discussed, I think it still leaves $1 million available, and that’s without getting into the capital part of it,” said Councilmember Matthew Hudes, who made the funding motion. “I think that we have frankly not been aggressive enough on the use of ARPA funds, as evidenced by the fact that we thought we had allocated all of them last year, and now we have 1.6 (million). And I wouldn’t be surprised if we found some more after we go through the capital and figure we can’t spend that by the timing that we need to.”
Hudes said he was aware that through the budget process more money could be directed to other places.
“A budget, you know, it’s your best information,” he said. “It’s not something that you can’t change later.”
Councilmember Rob Rennie seconded the motion, saying leaving out rent reductions was a good compromise.
Councilmember Rob Moore said he was concerned that $50,000 might not be enough to cover homeless services.
Moore said he was a bit uncomfortable giving LGS Rec a quarter-of-a-million dollars before rent negotiations have been completed, but in the end he joined the rest of Council in supporting Hudes’ motion.
Vice Mayor Mary Badame asked Police Chief Jamie Field how many homeless people there are in Los Gatos.
Field said there are around 12-24 homeless people in Los Gatos, and noted she would gather more data about the people who attend a local pantry program.
Hudes also tried to get the rest of Council on board with directing the Town to add a senior services coordinator who would work one-day-a-week, and to up the open emergency preparedness position from a half-time to a full-time job.
Town Manager Laurel Prevetti said it was hard to know what a seniors services role would look like ahead of a discussion on the senior services roadmap—which had plenty of ideas of what that employee might be involved with.
Asking staff to do work on any less than a half-time basis might not be the best idea, she added.
“It’s just very hard for continuity of service,” she said. “Or you say you can work two hours a day on this. But that’s not very efficient, really, because you’re jumping in and out of other work assignments.”
Badame asked Hudes to soften his motion slightly to indicate the part-time senior services position was simply a “placeholder” and might not come to fruition during the budget process.
Hudes said he was happy to do so, and got his second for the motion.
Rennie said the Finance Commission was tasked with coming up with new revenue-generation opportunities over a year ago.
“But I haven’t seen that happen yet,” he said. “When I look at the forecast, even if I add some things in that I think are missing, we still feel a little bit short.”
Rennie said he couldn’t support a staffing increase based on “imagined” additional revenue.
Prevetti said the Town already has a lot on its plate with its upcoming equity plan implementation.
So, a vote on Hudes’ motion did not pass.
“It’s hard,” said Mayor Maria Ristow. “My vote does not reflect my commitment to seniors.”
Hudes came up with another motion, to direct someone to be a point-of-contact to help with the senior services roadmap—at a level not to exceed one day a week.
“Our senior services commission has not had that kind of staff support,” he said. “Many other commissions have, and that’s one of the reasons that we’ve gotten into the hole. That put us in the place that we’re at with senior services.”
Rennie seconded it.
This vote was unanimous.