After reading our immediate past mayor’s letter in the Nov. 21 issue of the Star, I feel the need to share my opinion.

1. Mr. Galbraith finds fault with our city having a $15 million debt to CalPERS for unfunded pension liabilities. While this debt does exist, I’m interested to know why Mr. Galbraith didn’t mention that our current city council, along with the city’s finance department, have come up with a plan to pay off this debt over the next 10 years. Also, the CalPERS debt didn’t just happen overnight. Much of it already existed during Mr. Galbraith’s past two terms as mayor. How much of this debt was he able to reduce during his tenure?

2. Mr. Galbraith complains about the restoration of Tank 2 in St. Helena’s Water Enterprise still needing to be completed. Tank 2 has been one of the city’s five-year 2016-2021 Capital Improvement Projects (CIPs) since 2016 when Mr. Galbraith was mayor. The city still has nearly two years to complete the project and fall within the 5-year CIP time frame.

3. As for the replacement of the Meadowood Tanks: This is a CIP that should be funded by the city’s water customers who will benefit from the upgrade. California’s Proposition 218 makes it illegal for some city water customers to subsidize the cost of delivering water to other customers. In 2016, during our last utility rate study, Mr. Galbraith led citizens to believe our city has one recirculating water system where the costs of delivering water should be shared equitably among all users. Nothing could be further from the truth. The water that gets pumped up to the Meadowood tanks does not recirculate and only benefits about 100 customers in St. Helena’s 2,600 water customer system. Consequently, all the expenses to provide that service should be borne by the Meadowood customers. In fact, prior to the 2016 utility rate study, Meadowood was required to pay a $50,000 per year surcharge to the city for the extra costs associated in delivering water to Meadowood. That surcharge was discontinued while Mr. Galbraith served on the 2016 ad hoc utility rate committee and those costs have been subsidized by all St. Helena’s water customers ever since.

4. On June 27, 2017 at a regular city council meeting, the Nigro and Nigro auditing firm presented its conclusions regarding St. Helena’s financial record keeping policies. Their report recommended our city make several changes to the way our city was managing its finances. During that council meeting, it was council members Paul Dohring and Geoff Ellsworth who pushed for the changes that have since been made to our city’s financial record-keeping system. Mr. Galbraith had few if any comments about the auditing report that night. Yet here he is, two years later, faulting our city’s financial position.

I fully realize becoming mayor or city council member in our city is a difficult, time-consuming and an oftentimes thankless job. And, I do appreciate Mr. Galbraith’s efforts during his four years as mayor. I simply don’t agree with his current criticism of our city’s financial position based upon his past leadership. I know I’m not alone in hoping he’s not considering running for mayor again in 2020.

Tom Belt

St. Helena

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