By Jim Tortolano/Orange County Tribune
Could the solution to Westminster’s dire financial situation lie outside city limits?
At Wednesday’s city council meeting city staff presented several ways to generate more revenue to the municipal coffers in face of possible bankruptcy as Measure SS – a one-cent sales tax – expires at the end of this year.
First on the list of proposals was annexation of unincorporated county “islands’’ adjacent to Westminster including the community of Midway City.
All told, annexation could add as many as nearly 9,000 new residents, bringing Westminster’s population to close to 100,000. In a recent year, those areas generated $365,324 in sales tax and $66,137 in property tax.
Westminster would have to provide the usual municipal services, including police protection, so there would be some expense as well.
The smaller island could be annexed without approval of those residents, but incorporation of the Midway City/Bolsa area would have to go to a vote of the affected residents.
Other possibilities for more revenue include developing a city-owned gas station, which could bring in $250,000 to $300,000 annually, allowing electronic message boards along the Garden Grove (22) and San Diego (405) freeways, and stricter compliance of the business license tax. An estimated $200,000 to $250,000 per year could be realized if effective, according to Debbie Kurita, interim community development director.
“It is just good government” to consolidate those islands with adjacent cities, she said. “Maybe it’s a revenue generator and maybe it’s a benefit in other ways.”
Another idea raised was allowing vendor kiosks in the Civic Center.
Ultimately, the council decided on a 5-0 vote to “move forward with everything.” but prioritized which projects should be pursued initially, and business tax enforcement was named the first.
City Manager Christine Cordon noted that while annexation – perhaps a 12-to-18 month task – would not bring immediate benefits, “it’s a conversation we need to be having.”
Also on Wednesday night, the council approved an employment agreement with Cordon as the new city manager on a 5-0 vote. Her promotion from “interim” city manager was effective immediately.
Her annual salary will be $240,890 and she will receive a monthly auto allowance of $300.