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Galt City Council approves clean energy incentives

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Posted: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 2:36 pm | Updated: 2:38 pm, Wed Dec 18, 2013.

Under a new program, Galt residents can finance energy efficiency upgrades and repay the cost over time through their property tax bills.

On Tuesday, the City Council narrowly approved a partnership with Sacramento County to allow property owners to voluntarily finance certain upgrades such as the installation of solar panels or dual-pane windows under the county’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. This not only reduces the upfront cost, but allows the improvement fees to be shared with future property owners, according to a presentation made at Tuesday’s meeting.

“The city is simply providing a mechanism for residents to provide energy efficiency in their homes,” Councilman Curt Campion said. “I think it’s up to the property owner to decide whether they want to take the risk.”

However, not all council members favor the incentive for fear the city could be left holding the financial bag if property owners are foreclosed upon.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which manages the majority of home loans, does not support programs such as PACE, as the tax is added after the mortgage is already in place. It has threatened to redline cities that participate.

“We have no guarantee if the federal government would go along with this,” Councilwoman Barbara Payne said at Tuesday’s council meeting. “I’m not going to take that risk.”

She and Mayor Marylou Powers cast the lone dissenting votes against the city’s participation.

City Attorney Steven Rudolph, however, said there is little risk to the city and that the FHFA has yet to redline any cities and make borrowing rules tighter for those wishing to buy property there.

Citrus Heights and Elk Grove have already joined the county’s PACE program to pay for energy efficiency upgrades and water conservation measures. The city of Sacramento has its own similar incentive.

As of November, there were about 6,535 applicants totaling $1.3 billion in loans statewide in programs like these, according to a Sacramento County report.

PACE is open to both residential and commercial property owners. Those electing to participate can have the cost of their improvements placed as a voluntary special levy on their annual property tax bill.

There are other rules set by the county. For example, property owners can not participate if they do not have at least 85 percent valuation.

For more information, contact the city’s Economic Development Department at 209-366-7230, or visit www.cleanenergysac.com.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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