Measure J Commission hopes to have funds for public proposals divvied up by spring

A Commission tasked with weeding through dozens of applications for funds supplied by a city sales tax elected Thursday to be methodical, while also committing to help direct applicants whose projects are not ultimately funded to additional resources.

“This list is awesome,” said Jim Gazan, a member of the city’s Measure J Oversight Commission during its regular meeting. “There’s a lot of valid need out there.”

Nearly 60 public requests for funding were solicited during the past few months. Only a few will be funded through the Measure J tax, which was first approved in 2011 and allows the city to collect one cent for every dollar spent here, with a few exceptions.

Among those who spoke during public comment Thursday were representatives from city departments and community organizations working to restore the historic Plaza Theatre, add electric charging stations to the Palm Springs Air Museum, construct a fire training tower in the city, and build a skate plaza at James O. Jesse Desert Highland Unity Center. All had requested funds through the program.

“It’s encouraging to see how many people submitted projects and the diversity of the projects in there,” Commission Chair Jeffrey Bernstein said. “There’s obviously a lot more on the list than we can afford through the community projects budget, but also there is a lot of food for thought for the general budget, which continues to grow.”

Budget projections show $17 million in Measure J taxes will be available to the city in the coming year. Much of those funds will go toward road maintenance, but Bernstein said Thursday as much as $3 million may be available for projects proposed by the community because the city held off spending in the past few years as it waited to see the effects of COVID-19 on its budget.

During deliberation that followed public comments, Commission members agreed to first sort the requests into themes. That will allow them to work with city staff to determine whether some proposals might be eligible for funding through department budgets, such as Public Safety, Parks, Transportation, or Facilities.

The public projects will then be ranked on a 1 to 5 scale, with the goal of making final decisions by April. Through it all, the public is invited to participate, including at the Commission’s next meeting in January.

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