5 year capital budget
On August 14th, 2017 the Common Council voted to approve the forward looking five year capital budget, starting on page 145 of the common council meeting agenda packet. This is a planning instrument to help layout capital needs and related borrowing for the city. These funds are not expended without additional votes from the city council after bids are received etc.
I consider budgeting as a true way of setting the priorities of our city and in that sense the priorities of our constituents. The list of capital items outlined for 2018, in particular, I was concerned did not represent the priorities of my constituents. Further complicating the matter is that this budget came together the week prior to, and was published to the city council the Friday before, the Monday meeting leaving very limited time for detailed review or consulting our respective base of citizens. I will say our City Administrator did go out of her way to answer my questions over the weekend!
Various concerns were discussed by many on the council, with most discussion centering on ongoing Fire/Rescue capital payments, a new line item for building a bike path to Maslowski Park, and moving the planned renovation of the North Shore Library back from 2019 to 2021. There were also a number of what seemed to be deferred items all hitting the budget in 2018 including a street sweeper, snow plow truck, and multiple pick up trucks.
The outcome of the discussion regarding the Fire/Rescue Department was a resolution directing staff to investigate what the city's costs would be given a self funded and Glendale specific department. This could then be used to compare to the current and forecast future outlay to the North Shore Fire / Rescue Department as structural funding challenges and potential solutions are reviewed by the member communities. I voted in favor of this analysis.
A connector bike path to Maslowski Park from the Oak Leaf trail was a new request for the year. The concern there was the 1/2 Million dollar price tag. We do need to bring traffic to the park given Nicolet School District has yet to meet their obligation to build the baseball diamonds, though at what cost? I also question the need for the route being proposed with a potential alternative route connecting to Flint Road needing more investigation.
The move back from 2019 to 2021 for the library is a concern. When we consider usage of our library vs our bike paths, I see a greater value in investing in our library. In addition, there requires a joint effort to complete the library renovation by other partner municipalities. Glendale has the largest usage, so Glendale should take a leadership role. Moving it back does not, allowing others to back off on their commitments as well.
I was unable to get more details about the road water main replacements, though understand these roads, even though their surface may be fine (I checked a few myself), what's going on under is not. Still, those are some hefty costs in the current and coming years without the ability to collect more details.
Finally, the overall additional debt service is concerning. I understand from the council meeting presentation that some of these items were planned for a number of years such as the city hall and police renovation, and the expiration of TIF districts should address the additional borrowing when those tax dollars kick in. That said, I look forward to learning more about the longer term debt outlook when we visit the budget in the coming months.
Given there were some questionable priorities, I voted no. The capital budget still passed.