Monday, August 25, 2014

What you may not know: Week of August 25

It's a busy committee week for the Appleton Common Council and two of the week's highlights happen later today (Monday), so let's get right to it:

City Plan Commission, Monday, 4 pm

Several weeks ago the Plan Commission and the common council approved a resolution calling for the city to review its policy on painted signs and murals. Today at 4 pm the Plan Commission will get our first opportunity to discuss the proposed changes.

Looking through the memo and the proposed changes, a couple of noteworthy items stick out to me:

  1. Having the word "mural" defined as part of the ordinance and clearly stating that murals are not signs, and as such are not regulated under the city's painted sign policy could open the door for a variety of new art to pop up around the city.
  2. Separating painted signs and murals (and exempting "ghost signs," historic signs from businesses that have since closed) should allow us to regulate and permit where we need to without this becoming a major issue.
City staff deserves a lot of credit here for working with us to see how other communities handle this issue. I'm looking forward to moving forward with this.

Library Building & Equipment Committee, Monday, 4:30 pm

Unfortunately, two of this week's most newsworthy meetings are likely to overlap as the public gets their first opportunity to see the architectural concepts for a possible new library at 4:30 on Monday. The common council voted on Wednesday to approve a resolution of necessity allowing the city to negotiate with the owners of two properties, Fox Banquets and Trinity Lutheran Church, to potentially make way for a new facility to be constructed in that space.

There's still a lot that needs to happen before we're ready to construct a new facility, but I'm excited to see things moving forward after five years of work to reach this point. It's time for us to come together and build the greatest library this city has ever known.

Finance Committee, Wednesday, 4:30 pm

Finally, if you've been following the news around the city you likely already know what's coming before the Finance Committee this week. Two weeks ago we voted 4-1 to recommend approval for a resolution calling for the city to implement a $20 per vehicle "wheel tax" to replace revenue the city currently collects via special assessments for street reconstruction. The resolution was referred back to committee, however, and we'll discuss it again on Wednesday.

I've written about this idea at length multiple times now. In fact, I dedicated last week's entire post to it. I continue to hear from constituents and others around the city that are strongly in favor or strongly opposed to this proposal. At the end of the day, though, I think asking our vehicle owners to make small, annual contributions to the city's ongoing upkeep of roads is a significantly better option than hitting property owners with an enormous bill at the time of reconstruction. 

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Wheel Tax FAQ

As you likely know if you've been reading this blog, the City of Appleton's Finance Committee has been working for most of the summer on a reevaluation of the city's policy regarding special assessments. For as long as anyone can remember the city has been passing along a portion of the cost to property owners when a new street or utilities are installed or the street or utility infrastructure is repaired near their property.

Rising construction costs and other factors, however, have led to those assessments becoming increasingly significant and challenging for many property owners. It's not unheard of for a street/utility project to result in over $10,000 in assessments for some properties. Even with the city's five-year payment option, that's simply not a cost some property owners can afford to take on all at once.

On Wednesday the Appleton Common Council will debate one alternative: a proposed $20-per-vehicle "wheel tax." The tax would apply to all cars weighing less than 8,000 pounds and would raise an estimated $1.7 million in annual revenue for the city. Over the last ten years the city has spent an average of around $5 million per year on road repairs, and of that amount $1.3 million per year has been recovered via special assessments.

Over the last few months we've heard a lot of questions about the wheel tax. Below I've attempted to answer some of the more frequent questions I've received.

Why do we need a new tax to pay for street repairs?

As I mentioned above, special assessments have brought in about $1.3 million in annual revenue on average over the last ten years. For perspective, in 2014 the city's total property tax levy was slightly under $38 million, meaning that eliminating special assessments and absorbing this revenue loss with property tax dollars would reduce the general fund by about 3.4%. That's simply not a funding cut the city can afford to absorb without reducing other services.

There seems to be a perception out there that the city can just "cut the fat" and find this money in the budget, but in reality it's not quite that simple. We've already had to cut dozens of staff positions in response to reductions in state aid and levy limitations in recent years, and the impact is still being felt around the city. We also have (per capita) very small police and fire departments and other city departments operating under significant limitations. There simply isn't room in the budget or in our city operations at this point to take on a cut of this magnitude. If we can't pass a wheel tax, it appears pretty certain that we'll need to continue special assessments.

Why can't we just raise property taxes to pay for this?

By state statute, the city of Appleton and all municipalities have a cap on our property tax levy. Raising more than that levy limit requires the voters' approval through a referendum. As such, we simply don't have the ability to decide to raise property taxes to pay for this. If we elect to eliminate special assessments, we have to find another way to recoup this revenue.

Towns, villages, cities or counties are allowed, however, to create a wheel tax as long as all of the revenue collected is used for "transportation related purposes." That's a pretty broad umbrella, but the proposal recommended for approval by the Finance Committee narrows the allowed uses of Appleton's proposed tax to street reconstruction.

Why $20?

As mentioned above, our average over the last ten years has been about $1.3 million collected via special assessments. The actual number fluctuates pretty significantly year-to-year, though, depending on that year's projects and the adjoining properties' ability to be assessed. In addition, construction costs tend to go up from year-to-year, so using the last ten years' cost as a prediction for future expenses will probably underestimate our needs a bit.

A $20 wheel tax is expected to raise around $1.7 million annually, as I mentioned above. Some years that may be more than enough to cover the lost revenue from special assessments, but in those years the extra money will go into a segregated fund to help cover the difference on years where assessments would have exceeded our wheel tax revenue.

What happens if there's extra money?

I'm answering this one again because it's part of an important distinction we made at the last Finance Committee meeting: This money will only be used for street repairs, and if there's excess beyond what is needed to cover lost special assessment revenue it will go into a separate fund to be used to replace special assessment revenue in future years when the cost would have exceeded $1.7 million. This isn't just a "cash grab" or another tool to use to pump extra money into the general fund - it's going to be specifically segregated to be used for its stated purpose.

Why only cars and trucks under 8,000 pounds and not bicycles, motorcycles and heavier vehicles?

Certainly, cars aren't the only vehicles that benefit from having well-maintained roads. However, state statute specifically defines the vehicles we are allowed to charge this fee. The statute includes only vehicles with automobile or truck registration (eliminating bikes and any other two-wheeled vehicles) at 8,000 pounds or less (excluding heavier vehicles).

While I agree that other vehicles have an impact on the condition of our roads, especially heavier vehicles, the statute clearly says that we cannot apply a wheel tax to them.

Will this eliminate assessments on all streets?

No. Early in this process the Finance Committee and Common Council approved a policy that will continue to special assess property owners in new subdivisions when their first permanent street is installed. For most of the 13th district that has happened relatively recently or will happen soon. If you move into a property that doesn't have a permanent street, you will still be assessed for the city hiring someone to construct a street to you.

Under this proposal, however, once that permanent street is installed it becomes the city's sole responsibility to reconstruct it when the time comes. This would be similar to our city policy regarding sidewalks: Property owners pay for the initial construction of a sidewalk, but once it's in the city repairs or replaces it as needed.

What about people who recently paid for their streets?

I understand that this is going to be challenging to accept for some, but the city is not in a financial position to refund past special assessments. As I mentioned above, our budgets are tight. Repaying past assessments or offering to exempt recently assessed properties from the wheel tax simply isn't feasible at this point.

Individually I've explained the situation to a few people with the following metaphor: Imagine for a moment we had everyone on a street come out and put their fingers on their curb, then someone walked by and stepped on them. Halfway down the block, we realize that this is an awful idea. The "fair" way to do it would be to step on everyone's fingers anyway, but that doesn't make it right. At the same time, we can't really undo what's already been done.

There's really no way to eliminate special assessments that's perfectly "fair" for all of the property owners that have paid them in the past. I know some people will be upset about having to pay for their street and a wheel tax, but I hope over time they'll come to understand that if we're going to make a change it has to start somewhere.

But I live on (street name) street and it's not due for reconstruction. Why should I have to pay for everyone's streets?

While you may only live in a building adjacent to one or two streets, odds are you drive on other streets too. Having all of the city streets maintained well is in every driver's best interest.

How can I weigh in on this?

The wheel tax proposal is on the agenda for the Wednesday, August 20, 7 pm meeting of Appleton's Common Council. The meeting will be held in the council chambers on the sixth floor of City Hall, at 100 N Appleton St. If you're attending the meeting and would like to address the council, please come early and sign in on the sheet at the back of the room.

If you're unable to come to the meeting but you'd like to contact an alderperson to share your opinion on this or any other matter, this page contains links that allow you to contact them individually and this page allows you to send an email to all of them.

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.

Monday, August 11, 2014

What you may not know: Week of August 11

Before I start with my committee week update, I'd like to take a moment to remind everyone that primaries for the November election will be held on Tuesday, August 12. If you live in Appleton's 13th district, your polling place is Faith Lutheran Church at 3100 E Evergreen Drive. The polls will be open from 7 am-8 pm, so please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the candidates and go vote.

Our committees are off on Tuesday to give everyone time to head out to the polls, but we still have a very significant week of meetings planned. Here are some of the highlights:

Human Resources, Monday, 6 pm

One of the action items on Monday evening's agenda is a request for council to set Aldermanic salaries to take effect after the 2016 April elections. Council is not allowed to vote on our own pay raises, so when we consider our own salaries we delay action for two years, when every member of council's current term will have elapsed.

Currently, members of Appleton's Common Council make $5,805 per year. That rate hasn't increased since going up 3% in 2009, and has gone up just twice in the last 12 years. The combined $85,705 spent paying all 15 alderpersons represents about 0.2%, or two thousandths of the city's net tax levy in our most recent budget.

Our council positions are intended to be part-time, but doing this job well requires a pretty significant time commitment. In addition to council and committee meetings (which frequently tie up 4-5 evenings every two weeks), most alderpersons spend a fair amount of time on meeting prep, working with staff and doing research to help understand and evaluate potential council decisions, working with constituents to answer questions and resolve issues, attending various other events and more.

The challenge with setting our own salaries is that "0%" is the easy answer politically. With that said, if we do that again this year we'll go all the way through 2016, a total of seven years, between salary increases. I think a modest raise is a fair request, and I hope we'll consider it.

Furthermore, I think the system by which we approve potential raises is part of the problem. I'm hopeful we'll consider tying potential council raises to some kind of metric (a percentage of the city's total tax levy, for example), to give ourselves an easy point of reference to use when making this decision in the future.

Finance, Wednesday, 4:30 pm

Most of this week's headlines are likely to come from the Finance Committee meeting, where we have one topic that's been sent back and another longstanding item that might be close to wrapping up.

First, at our last committee meeting we voted unanimously to approve a resolution of necessity allowing the city to negotiate with Trinity Lutheran Church and the owners of Michiels to potentially purchase the site for the new home for the Appleton Public Library. The issue was referred back to committee at council, however, so we'll be taking it up again on Wednesday.

This is the first time the council has been asked to approve anything related to this site, as the work on determining the future of the library largely falls upon the Library Board of Trustees. That body, however, has done a remarkably thorough job of looking at the possibilities and scrutinizing every option for the future. I think it would be a tremendous mistake for us to turn away from all of the work they've done.

And, of course, the committee also continues to work on our review of the city's special assessment policies. This week we're down to the main event: Street reconstruction. One of the items on our agenda is a resolution calling for the city to implement a wheel tax to pay for street repairs, replacing special assessment revenue and allowing us to eliminate the street portion of that practice.

Last week the council voted 15-0 to eliminate special assessments for sanitary sewer mains but continue to assess for laterals, which connect individual properties to the mains. I suspect that our previous action may set a precedent for a similar outcome here, with street reconstruction becoming the city's sole responsibility but connections (aprons, in this case) remaining the responsibility of the homeowner.

I also hope we'll consider an alternative I raised several meetings ago: Continuing to special assess for streets, but capping a property's potential assessment at a percentage of their assessed value. This would hopefully allow us to continue to repair streets without major budgetary impact, but also allow us to avoid (for example) charging $10,000 for street reconstruction to a corner property with a $65,000 assessed value.

Assuming the committees take action on these items this week and don't opt to hold them, all three items will come as recommendations before the full council on Wednesday, August 20.

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What you may not know: Week of August 4

After a week off, the Appleton Common Council resumes our normal schedule this week with our first full council meeting of August on Wednesday. Our top stories this week are likely to be items I've discussed before, so here are some updates from my last post two weeks ago:

Murals

On Monday, July 21 the City Plan Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of a resolution calling for an immediate, temporary halt to the enforcement of our ordinance regarding painted signs and murals. The ordinance, as currently written, would call for some public art and advertising like the painting on the exterior of the Wilmar Chocolates building on Wisconsin Avenue to be painted over.

It's worth noting that this resolution is not a permanent solution to this issue. The resolution calls for a temporary halt to enforcement while the city reviews and potentially amends its policies. Those possible changes would come at a later date.

In the meantime, however, I suspect we'll pass this resolution and open the door for the review process.

Fire Trucks

During our last week of committee meetings the Central Equipment Agency Review Committee, Finance Committee and Safety & Licensing Committee all voted unanimously to recommend approval of a proposal calling for the Appleton Fire Department to purchase a new, in-stock fire truck from Pierce Manufacturing to replace our 100-foot platform truck, which is 14 years old and in need of major service.

Purchasing this truck comes at a cost, as the city will have to add an additional $200,000 to our 2014 borrowing package to cover the resulting shortfall in the existing truck's vehicle replacement fund. In the bigger picture, though, buying a new truck now represents both the best short and long-term decisions when combining issues of public safety and fiscal responsibility.

Library

On July 23 the Finance Committee voted unanimously to recommend approval of a "resolution of necessity" authorizing city staff to open negotiations to purchase the proposed site of a new library.

This resolution would authorize the city to pay for appraisals of both properties and begin negotiations with their owners regarding a possible agreement to purchase these spaces. Without these resolutions the city cannot proceed with the effort to build a library on these properties.

At the Finance Committee meeting we again received very strong assurances the city does not intend to condemn or otherwise force out these property owners. We intend to negotiate and make our best offer but we're prepared to move on to alternatives if the owners are unwilling to sell. This resolution is a necessity to move along with that process.

Special Assessments for Utilities

Also at our July 23 Finance Committee meeting we voted 4-1 to approve an amendment to the city's special assessment policy dealing with sanitary sewer reconstruction. Our current policy calls for homeowners to receive a special assessment for a portion of both the sewer main and the lateral extending to their property line. Our amendment would call for the city to continue to assess for 50% of the cost of the lateral, but removes the cost of the main and several related items from the special assessment.

This change could reduce the sanitary sewer utility portion of a homeowner's special assessment by roughly two thirds, and reduces their assessment obligation to only the part of the project that specifically benefits their property: The lateral connecting them to the sewer main.

Once the committee voted to make that amendment, we voted unanimously to send the amended policy on to council for approval.

Once we've reached a final decision on the utilities portion of the policy, we're expected to move on to discussing street reconstruction and a possible wheel tax at our next Finance Committee meeting on August 13. Street reconstruction and/or the wheel tax are not on Wednesday's Council agenda.

Bike Lanes

On July 22 the Municipal Services Committee voted unanimously to continue to hold an action item calling for portions of five streets to be retrofitted with bike lanes when other portions of those streets come up for reconstruction in the coming years. This item will not be on Wednesday's Council agenda.

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.

Monday, July 21, 2014

What you may not know: Week of July 21

It's a committee week for the Appleton Common Council, and it might be the busiest one in my year and a half as a member of this body. Normally I try to write about two or three topics here, but this week I can't narrow it down to less than five.

City Plan Commission, Monday, 4 pm

As you might have seen in the Post Crescent, the city's policy for painted signs and/or murals on the side of buildings has come under fire recently. The issue came to light when a mural at Wilmar Chocolates was found to be in violation.

In response, at our council meeting three weeks ago five alderpersons co-sponsored a resolution calling for immediate suspension of enforcement of the ordinance and a review of the policy. That resolution comes before the City Plan Commission on Monday.

I suspect the resolution will pass at committee, as it only calls for a temporary halt to enforcement to give us time to review the policy. The next step, the actual policy review, is likely to present a more interesting challenge. Allowing murals like the one at Wilmar is a no-brainer, but if we allow painted signs in this instance because they're art, then we put ourselves in the position of having to determine what is or is not art.

This is likely only the first step in a long conversation on this issue.

Central Equipment Agency Review Committee, Tuesday, 4 pm

Two weeks ago at the Safety & Licensing Committee we learned for the first time about an issue with one of Appleton's largest and most expensive fire trucks, our 100-foot aerial platform truck. The torque box which holds up the platform had cracked, and could take several months to repair. This is the only truck of its kind in the city, although a couple of our neighboring communities also have one.

The discovery of this issue has led to a re-evaluation of our options with this truck. The truck is 14 years old and was scheduled to be replaced in 2020. It's become increasingly expensive to repair, and the need for frequent maintenance will take it out of commission more and more often as it continues to age.

As such, it's time to start looking at the possibility of replacing this truck early instead of continuing to pour money into an asset that's near the end of its life cycle. There is the possibility in place to buy a stock unit from Pierce Manufacturing for $920,000, which is about $300-$500,000 less than it would cost to buy a custom unit but about $200,000 more than the combined balance of the money saved for the purchase of a new truck and the trade-in value of the existing truck. That overrun would have to be borrowed or come out of the city's fund balances for us to be able to make this move.

Borrowing and/or digging into fund balances to replace a piece of equipment early isn't something we want to do if we can avoid it, but in this case it appears to be a fiscally prudent move. Furthermore, there is a safety factor to consider: Buying the stock unit from Pierce, as recommended by staff, is the quickest way to have an operational truck in place and helping protect our community.

Assuming this item passes the CEA Review Committee, it will also appear as an action item before the Finance and Safety & Licensing Committees on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

Municipal Services Committee, Tuesday, 5:30 pm

I've written previously about the five latest streets being discussed as part of Appleton's on-street bike plan. A month ago three alderpersons called for portions of Capitol Drive, Prospect Avenue, Roemer Road, N. Oneida Street and Telulah Avenue to have bike lanes installed in the coming years to help add connectivity of lanes when other portions of those streets or nearby streets are reconstructed. That resolution was held at the June 24 meeting and will be heard again on Tuesday night.

Bike lanes have been one of the more challenging topics we've heard during my time on the council, as we've frequently heard from people who have a wide variety of opinions on the city's responsibility to create bicycle-friendly infrastructure and what it means to do so.

Four months ago I made a list of frequently-asked questions regarding bike lanes, and odds are we'll answer many of those questions again on Tuesday.

Finance Committee, Wednesday, 4:30 pm

A pair of longstanding council topics will take center stage at this meeting. First, we have a request to approve what's called a "Resolution of Necessity" for the city to purchase two properties that could combine to become the future home of the Appleton Public Library.

There has been a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding making the rounds on this topic, and this Post Crescent Community Column clears up a fair amount of it. The city is not planning on and has no interest in "forcing out" either Michiels or Trinity. The eminent domain process being used is a legal necessity to help those two properties determine the value of their space and make an informed decision about how to proceed. If they turn out to be unwilling to sell, the city will likely proceed with other options.

At any rate, the next step in that process is for the Finance Committee and council to approve the "necessity" of purchasing the sites, allowing the city and the library to continue efforts to acquire them. I expect the committee to approve on Wednesday, and the council will take the matter up next week.

Second, we have the next portion of our long-standing review of Appleton's policies regarding special assessments. Last week council wrapped up the new subdivision portion of the policy, and this week we'll start our review of the utilities.

The utilities portion of special assessments don't draw as much attention as the street reconstruction section, but repairs and related work can still be pretty expensive. I'm eager to see what possibilities we may discuss to make adjustments here.

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.

Monday, July 14, 2014

What you may not know: Week of July 14

The Appleton Common Council will meet on Wednesday at 7 pm to take up items that mostly appeared before committees last week, so it's time for updates on items I've covered recently:

Parking for Mile of Music 2:

Last Tuesday the Municipal Services Committee voted 3-2 to recommend denial of a resolution calling for parking meter enforcement to cease for four days during Mile of Music in August. Concerns expressed included the challenges of getting parking spaces to turn over and be available without meter enforcement, the relative unfairness of waiving parking meters for this event but not others, challenges involved in making people aware of the lack of need to plug meters and more. That resolution will come before council Wednesday night.

Special Assessments, New Subdivision Portion:

Last Wednesday the Finance Committee again voted 3-1 to recommend approval of a modified version of the New Subdivision portion of the city's Special Assessment policy. The changes would move the responsibility for paying for the installation of permanent streets in a new subdivision from the developers (who had been either tacking it onto the price of new lots or charging property owners later) to the property owners themselves. The proposed new policy mirrors one the city had up until 2004.

This is the only part of the special assessment policy we'll be addressing at council on Wednesday. Assuming we reach a final resolution on this, we'll be taking up the utilities portion of the policy at Finance next Wednesday.

Wheel Tax:

Last week the Finance Committee voted to hold a proposal calling for Appleton to institute a "Wheel Tax" as a potential funding source for street repairs. That item will be revisited when the committee discusses the street reconstruction portion of the special assessment policy, likely in a month or so.

Finally, we do have one piece of new business on our agenda this week:

Minimum Wage Referendum:

The City Clerk's office recently received a petition with well over 4700 signatures calling for yet another advisory referendum in this fall's election. This one asks whether voters would be in favor of raising Wisconsin's minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. This would be the second advisory referendum added to Appleton's ballot, and a third has been added by Outagamie County.

Advisory referendums do not change policy in any way, but they are one way to measure and document voter support (or lack of support) for an issue or proposed policy change. Out of respect to the work that went into collecting all of these petition signatures, I plan on supporting their desire to have this question appear on the ballot.

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What you may not know: Week of July 7

Please accept my apologies for this week's belated post (and no post last week). I'm just getting back from a few days away over the holiday and working on catching up today.

With that said, the Appleton Common Council's first committee week of July is underway, and here are some of the items on my radar:

Municipal Services, Tuesday, 5:30 pm

The much-maligned downtown parking meters will step back into the spotlight at tonight's Municipal Services meeting, where an action item and an informational item will discuss a temporary and permanent change to their enforcement.

First, the committee will take up a resolution submitted by four alderpersons at last week's council meeting calling for meter enforcement to cease during the active hours of Mile of Music 2, scheduled for August 7-10. The rationale is that the event will bring many first-time visitors to our downtown, and we'd rather not have a parking ticket be part of their introduction to the city.

The resolution also likely creates some additional challenges, though. For example, if we remove parking enforcement downtown during the event, what will keep someone from claiming a prime parking space on the first hour of the event and staying there all day (or all weekend?). Part of the attraction of the meters is their ability to keep spaces turning over, so people coming downtown have a better chance of finding a spot. 

I'm intrigued to hear the debate on this proposal. Allowing free parking during this event could be a good thing, if it can be done without creating major challenges.

The information item is one we've discussed before: Alderperson Kathy Plank's resolution calling for staff to study the possibility of removing meters downtown. This item was previously held until a full downtown parking study could be completed, but is back on the agenda this week. I'll be curious to see if there are any updates on the possibility.

Finance, Wednesday, 4:30 pm

Beyond the parking debate, virtually all of this week's major news is likely to come from Wednesday afternoon's Finance Committee meeting. Items on the agenda include:
  • The "New Subdivision" portion of the special assessment policy. Two weeks ago the committee voted unanimously to amend the plan to call for property owners in new subdivisions to be assessed for the installation of their permanent streets, as we did for subdivisions platted before 2004. From 2004 until now developers have been asked to place money in an escrow account to pay for that eventual construction. The portion of the policy we will debate on Wednesday deals only with new subdivisions. Portions dealing with reconstruction of streets and utilities will be discussed at later meetings.
  • Alderman Joe Martin's resolution calling for the city to institute a "Wheel Tax" of not more than $20 per vehicle to cover the loss of revenue if the city elected to eliminate special assessments. We're still in the very early stages of considering this proposal and it's not my favorite alternative to the existing assessment policy, but it is an option to consider and I'm glad we're getting the opportunity to discuss it.
  • A staff recommendation calling for the contract to construct the new Telulah Park Skate Park to be awarded to Miron Construction Company. This project has been sent out for bids once before but all of the bids were rejected as they greatly exceeded our budget for this item. On our second try we were able to get bids that more accurately reflect what we're prepared to spend. Assuming this request passes the committee and council, construction is expected to begin in early August and be completed in the fall.
You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.