Happy new year! Other than the arctic weather, I hope 2018 has been off to a good start for everyone. City Council was back in the saddle this week – we held our organizational meeting, then went into work session, picking up where we left off on the GMHS campus governance structure and fiscal policies. While I know neither sound particularly enthralling, they are critical to the big undertaking for a new GMHS.
Speaking of meetings, you may have seen the notices that City government offices are in the process of temporary relocation as the renovation and expansion of City Hall will soon be underway. City Council meetings will be held in the Senior Center of the Community Center for the next year and new locations for boards and commission meetings will also be announced as the project proceeds.
Finally, as we look ahead to the rest of January – note the MLK Jr holiday on Monday, January 15th. Last month, we declared the day as our second City-wide Day of Service to encourage positive action in our community. City Council will be continuing our new tradition of coming together and serving others, including members of the School Board and various Boards and Commissions. If you’re in the elementary school community, the FCEPTA will be holding GIVE Day on January 15th too (donations and volunteers needed). There are many other opportunities to help (see last year’s idea starters), so I hope you’ll consider choosing to spend some of your holiday working toward Dr. King’s vision of a better world – as a day “on” instead of a day off.
What Happened This Week:
City Council Organizational Meeting – new year, new digs, new seating arrangements! Congrats to Mayor Tarter and Vice Mayor Connelly on their re-election as mayor and vice mayor and welcome to Ross Litkenhous as our new colleague (ie, I can no longer claim newbie status). Next week we’ll formalize our Council committee assignments and liaison roles to boards and commissions and various regional bodies. If you’re curious about our roles in the community beyond our weekly Council meetings, next week’s agenda includes a list of the committees, liaison, and representative functions the seven of us will share.
City Council Work Session
Fiscal Policies – Here’s a refresher (from my December 8, 2017 blog post):
“For long time readers, you may recall a proposal to amend our fiscal policies last December. The decision was deferred until we had the outcome of the referendum. With the GMHS project now kicking off, staff and our financial consultants presented a new proposal to amend our fiscal policies so that we have appropriate measures in place to manage the increased risk and maintain our bond rating. The proposed change involves setting a target range for total reserves, should we exceed our long-established policies for debt and payout ratios (which we expect to exceed with the $120M debt for GMHS). As you recall, we already have a policy in place to target unassigned fund balance (aka, the rainy day fund) at 12-17% of expenditures. The new proposal is to target total reserves to equal 15-20% of expenditures (total reserves = unassigned fund balance + assigned fund balance + capital reserves). The staff report details the recommended policy change and for those really interested, the discussion with our financial consultants (see video from our work session) will be useful.”
This week, we discussed the potential implications of the policies, if adopted. In order to maintain a target of 17% of expenditures in the unassigned fund balance, each year we may need to add money to that fund. The City Manager and CFO has proposed we could rely on underspending/end of year budget surpluses to cover the amount needed each year. For reference, for FY19 we’d need to add $885K and in FY20, we’d need to add an additional $1.1M. However, I am concerned that relying on surpluses to cover that amount would be undependable and could put further pressure on the annual tax rate, beyond the tax increases already proposed to pay for CIP projects (6 cents increase is what is currently proposed for FY19) – which merits more public discussion. Row 5 of this chart depicts the amount of money needed to maintain an exact 17% unassigned fund balance to stay compliant with the policies. On the other hand, we have consistently heard the importance of reserves to prepare for the large debt and impact to our bond rating. Expect more meaty discussion with our financial consultants at our meeting next week!
GMHS Campus Governance Structure – also discussed this week was the Campus Coordinating Committee structure for the GMHS project, proposed to be composed of members of City Council, School Board, and others to focus on shared/overlapping issues for the campus while maintaining independent workstreams and PMs for economic development and school construction. The Committee will be focused on making recommendations to the elected bodies, with no decision-making authority. Also expect sub-committees/task teams to be formed, comprising of staff, electeds, and citizens to tackle specific topics like marketing, RFP/procurement, transportation, etc. If you have professional experience or expertise related to the project, start considering if you’d like to get involved!
What’s Coming Up:
Monday, January 8 – City Council Meeting – agenda includes Campus Governance and resolution to begin eminent domain proceedings for 604 S. Oak St.
Monday, January 15 – MLK Jr Holiday & City Day of Service
Tuesday, January 16 – City Council Work Session
Saturday, January 20 – Delegate Simon & Senator Saslaw Town Hall on 2018 General Assembly (10 am, Community Center)