Coming up with a budget proposal within levy limits is “going to be a struggle” this year, finance director Misty Dodge told the Common Council Aug. 13.
During a discussion of amendments to the 2020-29 Capital Improvement Plan, Dodge told alders that Mayor Aaron Richardson will have to cut $470,000 from the existing budget for his upcoming proposal, not including any new programs they may want to or will be necessary to add.
“There’s some new proposals that we frankly have to do,” Dodge said. “There’s a presidential election coming up, we’re going to need more poll workers.”
Her comments came in response to a proposal that would’ve added $250,000 to the 2020 funding in the CIP, a 10-year planning document that was approved unanimously that night. The CIP does not set any spending in stone, but its first year is typically used as a baseline for the mayor’s budget proposal.
That $250,000 to resurface streets in the Briarwood neighborhood was voted down. No other amendments will affect the 2020 budget, though the two most significant were approved.
The biggest adds $35 million for a police station facility -- $15 million more than the original proposed amendment.
The other major amendment approval was to move up construction at the Seminole Highway-Lacy Road intersection to 2021-22, swapping it with Fitchrona Road construction and making it budget-neutral.
Richardson’s proposed CIP would have dropped capital spending by $2 million from its current level, with $23.2 million on 2020 projects. It also forecasted an annual drop through 2023, falling to $17.8 million in 2021, $8.6 million in 2022 and $7 million in 2023.
The police station amendment changed that to increase in 2023, as the construction would begin on a new facility.
The CIP now plans for a 75,000 square foot police facility to be built next decade at a cost of $35 million.
Ald. Dan Bahr (Dist. 2) had proposed an amendment to Richardson’s initial proposal to increase funding, but only up to $20 million for a 40,000 square foot facility – 10,000 of which would’ve been for parking. Richardson supported that amendment, saying the numbers in last year’s CIP were “grossly inadequate.”
“What we had in there was really far off; we still might be off, but we’re at least closer,” he said. “It’ll be talked about by future councils more and more.”
Other alders wanted more assurance, and did not want the police chief to come back year after year to new estimates.
“Since I have been here, every year we have been changing our tone,” said Ald. Julia Arata-Fratta (D-2). “They need the space. We need to start moving forward and not change this any more.”
The group eventually approved changing it to the $35 million for the larger space, which was recommended in a 2015 space needs study.
Lacy-Seminole moves up
Moving construction at the Lacy-Seminole intersection up two years initially set off “some red flags” among city staff, administrator Patrick Marsh said.
With Fitchrona Road already scheduled for construction in 2021-22, staff wanted to be sure not to have both undergoing closures at the same time. Marsh said that after talking with the public works department, swapping the projects – Fitchrona Road is now planned for 2023-24 – made sense because of some more stormwater analysis needed for Fitchrona Road, anyway.
Ald. Tom Clauder (D-4), who proposed the amendment, called the intersection a mess that needs to be cleaned up as development on a variety of businesses and housing continues in the area.
“All I’m trying to do is move this up a little bit to get this on the city’s radar quicker,” Clauder said. “It needs help.”
The other four amendment proposals from alders got a mixed reception.
The street resurfacing proposal for Briarwood was voted down, with only Clauder and fellow District 4 Ald. Janell Rice voting in favor.
A proposal to add $87,106 to the 10-year plan for a drone program that would be used by multiple departments was zeroed out. Alders said they supported the idea of the program, which could allow a drone for uses such as economic development and public safety, but did not want to commit funding. Instead, they suggested staff seek grants for the funding.
“We have to think about wants and we have to think about needs,” Bahr said. “This is a want.”
An amendment to remove $25,000 in 2021 funding for the Verona Road Business Coalition was approved, along with a plan to fund the completion of the Dunn’s Marsh recreational circuit. The latter funding would fall sometime during 2025-29, and Ald. Dorothy Krause (D-1) was confident much of it could be covered by grants and partnerships with other municipalities.