On the August 13 the Grand Terrace City Council considered the item "Purchase
of City Hybrid Vehicles Utilizing AB2766 Subvention Program Funds."
First a little history: The SCAQMD imposes a $6.00 surcharge on vehicles registered in the State of California. A little over 25% of that money goes to local governments to encourage motor vehicle emission reduction measures. Grand Terrace receives about $15,000 and had accumulated approximately $80,000 that had not been used in the designated manner. In the past there have been requests for us to spend that money to defray the cost of bus passes for College Students through a program administered through a local agency.
City staff recommended the purchase of two hybrid vehicles, which meet the SCAQMD emissions standards, and making them available for City staff and Council members to use in the course of City business in lieu of mileage reimbursement. The two vehicles chosen are Toyota Prius V3 and a Toyota Camry LE both meet the standards and the cost out the door for both is approximately $64,000.
The item was approved 3-1, with mine being the dissenting vote.
Why did I vote No? Free vehicles! The City will save money in mileage reimbursement expense! How could I vote NO? Very important to note that the decision wasn’t a choice between purchasing standard vehicles or hybrid vehicles, it was the decision to make a capital purchase or not make a capital purchase.
I do appreciate the attractiveness of the item and here is my perspective:
Since the vehicles targeted for purchase are light duty - they will not be used by maintenance or code enforcement staff. To my understanding, these are the employees who drive around the City the most in the course of their jobs. When asked which employees would be using the vehicles and what the expected savings would be, the answer - based on current staffing levels - was $16,558 annually assuming staff would utilize city vehicles in-lieu of receiving auto allowances or mileage reimbursement. This would be an entirely voluntary program for use of the vehicles.
Total cost of ownership per year (an average of 5 years and assuming 12000 miles of use) is approximately $5,890 for the Prius and $5,400 for the Camry.
So the City is still coming out ahead by over $5000! Why did I vote NO?
Again, I appreciate the attractiveness of the City owning Hybrid vehicles and making them available to staff. From what I have read, hybrid vehicles realize the most fuel economy while driving longer distance/highway miles, not around city travel. Further, I didn't get a sense that the vehicles would be in demand among city employees and the council did not address the idea of using these vehicles in-lieu of their car allowances. Finally, the vehicles aren't FREE, they are being purchased with tax payer money, yet the tax payers in Grand Terrace will not be able to take advantage of their use. I don't know what estimated pollution reduction we will achieve, but if that is the goal, I believe the if money was used to provide bus passes to college students, seniors and other low income residents to encourage the use of public transportation we would see a greater reduction in cars on the road and the resulting pollution - which is the ultimate goal of this SCAQMD surcharge.
To me the request to purchase the vehicles seemed like a solution in search of a problem for the City. We didn't identify the need to have city cars available for staff as a priority, we will need to use staff time to create a policy for use and administer the scheduling of vehicle use. My perspective is that Cities don't need to spend special allocation money, collected from surcharges, merely because they have it to spend. I didn't see that this money would fulfill an identified need in the City of Grand Terrace, nor do I believe it is the best method of reaching the SCAQMD target of reduced emissions - so to me the choice was to vote No.
I appreciate the attractiveness of this item and the decision my colleagues made with their votes. For me the justification of necessity leading to a capital purchase wasn’t there."
I'm asking you for your vote.