This week’s campaign newsletter will cover less topics from last week, but I wanted to go deeper on a few key topics I’m learning:
$6 MM Bond Passed: Last night’s City Council meeting was one of the shorter meetings in recent weeks – ending by 9 pm! One of the key topics was the issuance of a bond sale to finance capital improvements that were not included in the FY16 budget. If you recall from the recent budget cycle, there was much community debate over items that couldn’t be funded without an increase in the real estate tax rate. The teacher salary plan required an additional $300K (about a $0.01 increase in real estate tax rate), which did eventually pass. This new bond passed unanimously on Monday night and will finance items such as police cars, school buses, traffic lights, re-paving of roads, and new HVAC at TJ Elementary – in total $6.2 MM worth of projects. While those are very critical needs for our City, borrowing the money creates an additional $600K in debt service (debt service = the interest+principal payment for the bond) that the City will need to start paying next year.
As a contrast – the $300K budget shortfall needed to fund the teacher salary plan brought droves of citizens out to comment because that equated to a $0.01 real estate tax increase. On Monday night, there was no citizen comment on the $6.2 MM bond or any discussion on the resulting $600K addition to debt service obligations next year.
While I know there was no appetite to further increase the real estate tax rate and that is why we need to borrow, it is worrisome that financing these big ticket items results in a debt service that could require a $0.02 real estate tax increase – and that had little fanfare or attention from the community. This really illustrates two themes of my campaign:
1) Smart economic development will better diversify our tax base. We need more revenue sources beyond residential real estate taxes!
2) Greater transparency and engagement on City government and finances, even outside of the budget cycle.
There are no easy answers here. But, I do believe that if we push for more thoughtful, economic development – that will strengthen City’s finances, give residents more dining, retail, recreation options and improve walkability, and ultimately, ensure the long term health and sustainability of the City – so that we aren’t forced to finance core needs like police cars and traffic lights in the future.
Mason Row: The most recent submission of the Mason Row project is available for review. Based on the City Manager’s report out on upcoming timelines, there will be a developer presentation on the key changes at the next City Council meeting on Tues Sept 8. City Council will then determine if the project requires another first reading or if they will informally refer it out to boards and commissions for review. Either way, it sounds like the earliest date for action by City Council would be late November/early December.
Yard signs: We are starting work on yard signs and hope to have them in before Labor Day. If you would like a yard sign to show your support of my campaign, please let me know via this form on my website so we have accurate counts. The signs should be ready to be picked up at the Kickoff event on Sun Sept 6 930-11 am at Cherry Hill.
FCC-TV YouTube videos: If you missed the Community Issues Forum in July, it is now posted on their YouTube channel. Also posted is mycandidate video. Enjoy! 🙂
I would love to hear from you on any topics in the newsletter, so please feel free to reach out with questions or thoughts. Thank you for your continued support of my campaign.