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Elmwood Design Stays on Track

March 9, 2011

The need for a better outdoor music and entertainment venue at Elmwood Park in downtown Roanoke took another step toward reality this week. City Council tabled the project a while ago due to the economy and the obvious need to stay within our city debt limits. At the last meeting when capital projects were discussed, city council unanimously instructed the City Manager to re-work the design internally with desires to focus on downsizing the project, allowing for phasing of construction, an eye toward preserved green space and more park usage — specifically starting with an improved stage/back of house/access and restrooms for our many successful festivals and concerts in the park. Previous studies have been done with experts in the field showing potential success of an outdoor venue in downtown Roanoke. The idea was to use these studies that did indeed come at a cost to help with this design to allow the project to progress to the construction bidding process.

On Monday, City Council was asked to consider allocating $300,000 to complete designs for the park based on our desire to downsize the project; start with the staging and grading; allow for phasing of future amenities based on demand; redesign the park for better green space; and redesign the back of the library to allow better daily park and library usage (for example, restrooms and a cafe with outdoor dining).

Roanoke does have a history of studying things forever and failing to use the studies to make informed decisions and move on one way or another. I am very aware of this and try daily to avoid this. In this case, it is absolutely not another study. It is the reasonable next step in an unfortunately long progression (thank you economy) to assuring that Roanoke has a signature urban city park worthy to continue to host the amazingly successful events and festivals that are indeed Roanoke. A park and stage worthy of our progressive mid-sized city. A park with events that will stoke economic development throughout our region, especially in downtown and will continue to add our growing vibe as an outdoor, green, music city.

If we can get to documents that can be put out to bid for $300,000 and we stay on track with the next step- we have made a good move and a good decision and have gotten a bargain. The next step cannot happen without these type of documents and designs made with a reflection to our history, studies done to date and public input on the newest, albeit downsized, plans. It is a logical and good next step.

What are your thoughts?

Thoughts on the recent meals tax increase

April 7, 2010

As many of you already know, Monday, Roanoke City Council voted in favor of a 2% meal tax increase for the next 2 years. The funds will be used to help public schools cover the shortfall created by the state levels cuts.

I sincerely appreciate the feedback I have received over the past few weeks on this issue and want you all to know how much I weighed your thoughts and opinions. As a city resident and restaurant owner, you can imagine this was a very challenging decision.  I share many of your frustrations and am concerned with the idea of additional support coming on the backs of one single industry — especially an industry so important to our quality of life, vibe and local labor force. While I ultimately supported the tax – I vigorously proposed more sustainable options during the debate and wish we could have taken more time to discuss the overall idea and long term impact of the program.

However, I have learned a great deal through the successes and challenges of my first term.  Most importantly, I have learned patience and better understand why we cannot always expect things to happen exactly as we might like.  There are many considerations and implications to each decision – and this must not be taken lightly.

Moving forward, I will continue to scrutinize the budget to find inefficiencies and other — more progressive — ways to support the schools after this two year period when the meals tax will automatically revert to current levels. If re-elected, I look forward to continuing as a member of the Joint Services Committee and playing a vital role – in cooperation with the schools — to find innovative and sustainable ways to support public education.

I am committed to ensuring Roanoke’s government is fiscally responsible - with a balanced approach to meeting current needs while still preparing for a positive future.  We must pay close attention to public safety, infrastructure, and most importantly our schools so our city can offer a high quality of life to all of our citizens.  As a father, educator, businessman and citizen – I have always been a vocal about the idea that our schools are our most important economic engine and are the most important measure of our success as a whole.

I am grateful to you for sharing your thoughts and am sorry for those of you who are disappointed in the outcome.  I hope you will all continue to support our local restaurants as we see the city through this very difficult time.

Thanks,  Dave

Thanks for your support!

March 3, 2010

A special thank you to everyone who helped make Tuesday’s primary election a success.  Your support has been a vital “vote of confidence” in my calm, sensible approach to leadership.  I am proud to have the opportunity to represent you on May 4th ballot.  My resolve is as strong as ever and we need to gear up to win in the general election so we can have the consistency city council needs to find solutions to the challenges we face.  Over the next 8 weeks I will be focusing on communicating critical information about the big issues that will differentiate me from others in the campaign including: how to handle an historically difficult budget; specifics on how to support the struggling school system during these difficult times; and how to position Roanoke to emerge from this recession as a healthy and vibrant community through progressive thinking and creative problem solving.  I will also communicate how I will help City Council and our new City Manager re-tool economic development strategies to make Roanoke a very business friendly community where people chose to live, work and play!

As always, please reach out to me and share your thoughts and visions of our great city.

Thanks, Dave

The Amphitheatre Stays on Track

August 14, 2009

Courtesy of Red LightWell perhaps I am not a great blogger- I should have had a post on this topic over a week ago and my posts are still too long! In retrospect what I write today is much different than probably what I would have written after the latest vote to keep the Amphitheatre A and E design funding in our capital budget. I was glad we returned the project to our capital budget but the process sure wasn’t pretty. I continue to learn a lot about this project and my role on council- especially over the last few weeks. I do believe that council made the correct decision last week to move forward to the next phase of design, usage and operational budgets for this project. We should know fairly soon about potential uses of an all-weather amphitheatre at Elmwood park and how that impacts the design and the operating budget. This will lead to about as accurate an estimate as we can get on what subsidy the city may expect to pay for this commercial amphitheatre with significant community usage. The question is not if there is a subsidy- but what subsidy is acceptable for this state of the art facility with- in my mind- huge economic potential for our downtown, our city and our region. I have heard much over the last week and as I said at the last council meeting this is not an easy decision. Ambivalence and uncertainty are a given with a “new” quality of life project that will change a downtown park, change the entrance into our downtown and change how we are use to doing things. I believe the change will be good, will be positive and offer many new opportunities for all ages from all walks of life. It will improve our quality of life here and will attract visitors and new residents alike. But by how much? At what costs? How different? All very good questions with no certain answers. This project has been the most prepared, studied, scrutinized project possibly in the history of the city- this is good and bad. It is good that people care and want to participate. It is bad because it is much easier from a leadership perspective to be overwhelmed with uncertainty and just shelf it or stop it when its time to make the big decisions. I believe we study too many projects and rarely do any actually happen. I believe we need to scrutinize and examine our entire capital budget process and I will help take a lead on this. However, I believe if we think a project is a good one as we have over many years and over many votes on this one we should not “can it” until we are sure it won’t work. We are getting to information that will help us with this question and I believe that is the right thing to do. There are many questions to come, much more public input and ultimately more votes on council after this phase concludes. We are not building the amphitheatre this year and in this economy but we will be prepared to move forward in better times if that appears to be the right thing to do at that time. Yes that may be a year or so away and may be with a different council- but those concerns should not paralyze this council as fear to make decisions has in the past. I am glad council took the time to study, debate and re-examine the second decision and I support the third decision in this recent debate to proceed to A and E renderings. I believe council as a whole can move forward as a team and continue to scrutinize the project and make the best and most informed decisions as the next phases of this project present themselves. While we disagreed recently, I do believe we would all like to see this project happen if it is feasible. That is what we will learn with this phase of the project. There are many concerns here- have we given enough in capital funds to the schools (I would say given two new HS and the largest capital projects in our history we have), what other capital projects are deserving, should we not spend any capital in this economy, what about Salem, and many more questions studied and not studied??? So please post comments and I will do my best to be a good blogger and respond. - Dave

The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Amphitheatre

July 20, 2009

Certainly I am disappointed with today’s council vote. I believe in my heart of hearts- with all the arguments presented over many years and all the consultant reports (costing upwards of $800,000) in previous council meetings and on this blog- that a downtown Roanoke Amphitheatre in Elmwood Park coming on line in three to four years will be best thing for downtown Roanoke, economic development and population growth that council can do in its Capital Improvement Plan next to a renovated market building. Two weeks ago the A and E design phase for an amphitheatre was approved 6-1, today without any new information and in my long planned absence it was voted down 4-2.

I am disappointed that it won’t happen but I am also disappointed that my colleagues on city council who had promised me they would table it so we could ALL be present to debate it did not do so. I spent a lot of time over the weekend sending out emails outlining the reasons behind my point of view. There are very many real concerns about this project but council over years has enlisted the advice of numerous consultants that have all supported the economic benefits and viability of an outdoor performing arts venue that would host concerts, festivals, even high school graduations.

If I knew then what I know now, I honestly do not believe I would support the tearing down of the obsolete Victory Stadium. If I knew how hard it was to start bold capital improvement projects in Roanoke, I would have supported a renovation of Victory Stadium to present day usage- namely an outdoor performing arts venue. I ran- with current council member Mrs. Mason on this issue. I supported Mr. Rosen and Vice Mayor Lea who said they supported the concept. Kudos to our leaders from long ago who actually built a 20,000 seat stadium that was well used and had an economic impact for decades. Yes we are in a recession, but after years of planning the debt for this project phased over the next 4 years had been long planned and financially we were and have been ready to go on what citizens labelled as the number two desired park and recreation capital project (next to greenways).

What are we going to do with that debt issuance now? I really don’t think anybody knows at this point- possibly just do nothing- that is certainly the easier decision. I am afraid politics entered the picture here- otherwise why did Mason, Rosen and Lea all vote for the project just two weeks ago. Again no other new information has been provided in the intervening two weeks. I can understand voting against it today from a political standpoint but why vote for it two weeks ago?

Ok I feel better. The last point I want to make is that the MAIN reason I ran for council three years ago was that I was tired of issues never being resolved on Roanoke City Council- decisions, if they occurred, were often changed, revoted on or scrapped well into the process. This was a very real concern with a long amphitheatre capital project- but one that elected leaders must chose to ignore and make the most informed decisions at the present time that they think are best for the city- no matter what they fear may happen six months or a year or two years down the road.

So with all this said- I will not participate in rehashing decided issues. As of today, the amphitheatre project is dead and I for one will not be bringing it up again. There are many other issues- though this one has been tied to me given my interest, my beliefs and the time I have taken to understand it well- that I also support, understand very well, have researched and will be pushing for this council. I intend to be a team/council player, one that can debate as best I can on issues and win or lose move on to the next issue. While I thought this issue had been decided by an informed super majority two weeks ago, I was wrong - but in my mind - today was the final vote.  Given that this Odyssey is over I can only hope for a Brave New World on Roanoke City Council.

What are your thoughts?

Dave

PS: the picture to the left is the design planned for Elmwood Park

The Amphitheatre (again!) and Roanoke’s Capital Improvement Plan

July 19, 2009

The Amphitheatre was approved and added to the city’s capital improvement plan two weeks ago. Over the last week there has been some thought to revisit the issue again and possibly re-vote on it. Much study has been done over numerous years along with much public input regarding the Amphitheatre. I have now been convinced it can fit into Elmwood park while also enhancing the park and greenspace and the rear of the library. I also believe usage will be better and it will have a more immediate economic impact by being downtown. The plans for the amphitheatre and our potential relationship with Red Light Management can be found on the city web-page.

This is an expensive and bold project but this council and the one before me has been planning for capital funding finally going to the city’s park and recreation dept and facilities in our city. We have focused appropriately for years on Fire and EMS, and School capital needs (two brand new high schools coming on line). Through numerous studies, the amphitheatre has been listed by citizens and staff as their number 2 or 3 priority. In addition to planned capital funding, there is also some funding remaining from the victory stadium saga. The debt service has been budgeted and the debt has been planned.

Two weeks ago council voted 6-1 to move to the architectural and engineering design of the amphitheatre which will include a more refined operating budget and a better assessment of the need for a municipal subsidy year to year. Red Light has given broad estimates of a possible subsidy which all municipal amphitheatres and facilities (eg civic centers, pools, etc) carry (if they didn’t the private sector would be in this business).

The question that is causing some council members to rethink their vote is the extent of the subsidy- which is not the $500,000 that some are saying- this figure was the high end for a larger amphitheatre by the river without the revenue stream that Elmwood creates (outdoor concessions daily for the downtown lunch crowd, coffee/cafe for the library etc)- we will learn this early in the A and E process and design the amphitheatre to best improve the operating potential for the venue. The A and E contract can include budget requirements including construction and operating budgets that the design will predict. The other concern is the time line- the A and E will take about 14 months and the construction about 2 years- both phases will spread over two years- currently construction in our capital plan would not begin until 2013 but given phased construction- the construction process can certainly follow soon after the A and E process. The other time line issue is the worry that new city councils may come on board and change direction- I think we all know this can happen, Roanoke has a good history of this. Does it mean we should be afraid to start any project- I certainly hope not.

The other big concern is the timing- it doesn’t look good to do such a bold project in the middle of a recession- while I could go into detail and there certainly could be a healthy debate on all these issues, this my simple answer: what better project to do during a recession- we have the funds, spread over three years, will link the Taubman, the new market building (the highest capital priority), a renewed Center in the Square to an awesome star shaped Elmwood Performing Arts venue and park and central library at the other end of downtown. We will be set to ride the recovery out of the recession, attract young people to visit and live here to enjoy our growing arts, cultural and music vibe at a lower cost of living with more quality of life potential. We cannot use this money in the operating budget and say give it to the schools- this is planned debt in a separate capital budget. There are many studies out there showing that cities that continue capital projects during a recession come out of that recession much healthier. It is obviously good for our local economy both immediately and in the short and long term to have capital/construction projects underway in a recession. Citizens also look locally for more quality of life and entertainment options during a recession. And again- what we are voting on is just the A and E design, so we can be ready to build in a year or two.

If we decide to revisit the vote, the options are to re-vote on it- table or can it, possibly re-allocate the money to non-park and rec projects, etc. Our infrastructure plans and bridge projects are doing well and even those departments have said they do not need re-allocation of funds. Storm water management is going to require a fee eventually due to federal and state legislation and should not come out of our capital or operating budget.

Council has been studying and discussing our capital improvement plan for months and discussing some projects for many many years. I had hoped we made an informed vote two weeks ago. While it never hurts to follow-up with these very real concerns and request more information, I would have hoped most of this had happened prior to the vote. I am out of town this week and will miss the vote Monday. Other council members will be gone at other meetings later in the summer as well. I have tried my best to stay in the debate and make my points, especially about the importance of moving to the next long planned phase for the amphitheatre project- the A and E design that would be consistent with specific operating budgets. I am hopeful council will have a healthy debate and go on to make a decision.

I am strongly in support of the vote we already took to move forward on the market building and amphitheatre and also support a renovated Washington park pool. If the vote changes because of the above very real concerns but answerable in my mind or due to political fears- I don’t plan on pushing the projects and will live with the votes. As I have said before- I ran for council to help bring healthy debate to issues but vowed to not continue the Roanoke habit of revisiting issues year after year without making a final decision on them. If it is voted down, I will not be the one continually bringing it back up but instead will look at other important capital projects and continue to focus on the many other issues that I have been supporting.

Many thanks for listening! What are your thoughts?
Dave
540-314-8875

Amphitheatre Revisited

April 10, 2009

The process for Roanoke to add a commercial amphitheatre to our cultural and quality of life mix took another turn last week and I went with it. A clear goal of mine on council was to help prevent victory stadium type sagas by encouraging decisive and progressive decisions on potential capital projects. I pushed too early on this one and have learned many lessons in the process.

I have written on this blog the many reasons why the location decision for the amphitheatre was a difficult and close one in my mind and why I chose the river site by a narrow margin. Among many concerns I had were: can a “commercial” amphitheatre fit in Elmwood park, what will happen with the much needed downtown greenspace and trees, what about the library and the new social security building and perhaps most importantly what will happen with our vibrant community events and festivals that traditionally use Elmwood park.

Red Light ManagementLast week an awesome team of promoters, architects and engineers presented their assessments of both sites based on significant experience in our market and the outdoor pavilion market, on-site engineering and soil analysis, and real construction cost assessments. They used all previous studies on this topic. They chose Elmwood for multiple reasons but primary among them was the close proximity to our vibrant downtown. I have always agreed with this but had those other concerns which they answered clearly: it can fit, the design will actually improve the park’s greenspace, an outdoor concession area will improve the library, the park can be used at times outside of major events, there is a possibility of an ice skating rink within the amphitheatre for year-round usage, the design includes our star as a statement of being progressive, and they now believe these pavilions can and should work with community organizations and events and share what will be an extraordinary outdoor facility-including high school graduations and festivals.

The pavilion will include 3000 covered seats and 2000 lawn seats, professional back of house and concessions that can be used throughout the year. Yes it is very expensive but cheaper than the river- $12 million versus $21 million. The facility at the river had many assets and perhaps some day we can bring our river and our great greenway and athletic field system there more into our quality of life fold for all citizens. We need to keep showing off our river and our mountain in multiple ways!

Can we afford to start building the Elmwood Pavilion or whatever it will come to be known as- certainly not now and in this economic environment. However, I do believe that cities that come out of a recession best are the ones that have begun capital projects with ties to economic development during the recession. I do not believe all capital projects need to stopped but just slowed. I support a full market building renovation as our highest priority but I also believe we can continue moving down the road on the amphitheatre process by beginning architecture and engineering documents so that a future council at a future and appropriate time can start construction. Councils prior to this one have planned and started this process long ago and bond money will be coming to parks and recreation department for this and other projects over the next few years.

So I changed my mind- while it was hard with my initial decision, this time around it was actually very easy given the professional design and mangement team we now have in place. I hope to keep them and the process moving forward.

What are your thoughts?

-Dave

The City Budget and School Funding

April 8, 2009

School BudgetI always relish the opportunity to work with and in support of the Roanoke City Public School System. Over the last month, I was able to participate in a work group with school board member Jason Bingham and our respective Financial officers to help figure out the budget gap for the schools and an amount that the city can and should transfer to the schools to help with this gap.

There were and continue to be many moving parts to evaluate in this process, including: interpretations of the state aid package and the federal stimulus package for schools. Changing revenue projections for the city also had to be added to the mix (fortunately these were better numbers). Since the schools cannot raise revenues directly on their own, there is an understandable desire to be fiscally conservative in their interpretation of these numbers and projections. Finally,  when you put financial experts in a room many interpretations of even the same numbers can result. It all led to a complicated process but a win-win scenario fortunately resulted. And keep in mind that the majority of the school funding gap is due to loss of state aid and revenue. Sooner or later the state is going to have to reconcile increasing school and transportation funding needs with decreasing revenue availability. But for this post- lets stick to what the city can do.

Last Saturday, City Council agreed to give just over $1.5 million to the schools and will consider another $500,000 if certain revenue projections and an estimate of the student census in our schools do not deliver more revenue to the schools. By certain calculations, along with cuts made as of last week by the schools, it at the very least made the amount the city gives the schools on level with last year and came close to closing the school budget gap completely. As we learned last night, the school’s projections and final interpretations still left a gap and they announced how they will close that gap. While hard on many who work in and use the school system, given where we were just a few months ago with a possible $15 million gap we have overcome a lot.

City Council like our School Board has shown a lot of commitment and thoughtful deliberation to try meet the challenge of balancing our budgets in this harsh environment. City Council has many additional obligations to fund along with the school system. Tough decisions have been made and currently we have a balanced budget. Another round of tough decisions is probably needed. Throughout this process, all on council have shown their commitment to the school system and I am sure this will continue if needs change.

There are some who think we should do more despite the balancing of the schools’ budget and our commitment to keeping them level year after year on the city side; and their are some that think we are cutting too much on the city side and that the pain is not equally shared. Some believe instead of cuts in the city budget, we should raise taxes. Others vehemently oppose this. Some believe we should take what we need out of our building raining day fund- a smart fund that helps with fiscal ratings of our city and to be used for major unforeseen emergencies. Is this one of those crisis moments? If so- how much and for what should be taken? This is where the balance and the reasoning that I think we have shown lies. I would not support using raining day funds or capital funds or raising taxes for a general operating budget at this moment in time- we have a balanced budget but I would absolutely consider any of this if the financial environment worsens much further and our revenue projections end up being way off.

What are your thoughts?

-Dave

The Decision Not to Run for State Office

March 12, 2009

Several people have asked for the full press release I used for my decision not to run for the House of Delegates seat that William Fralin will be vacating. Probably should have posted earlier, but please see the full release below-

Press Release 3-8-09

Certainly for me, and I would think for most, the idea of running and winning a House of Delegates seat would be an enormous honor and great experience. Since the announcement last week of William Fralin’s retirement, I have given this fairly rare opportunity a lot of thought. I have been flattered by the support and encouragement of many people whose opinions I value and cherish. While I tend to be optimistic and mostly try to say yes at every opportunity- this time around I have decided to say no and not run.

The decision was difficult as I believe this is a seat the Democrats can win and I feel I could bring much deliberative decision making to the issues that the Commonwealth will be facing over the next few years: especially Job Creation and Health Care delivery and costs. Only when these are impacted will the state budget be able to address mounting concerns over Education and Transportation funding. Health care issues with our shrinking state budget need to be firmly addressed in the next year- especially with a possible new national plan, and especially (as I see all too often in my day to day work) with the effects of health costs on all of us– in particular those losing jobs in this economy and the newly retired. From arts and cultural funding to passenger rail to school funding there are many needs in SW Virginia that I would love to advocate for and find positive solutions.

I am primarily choosing not to run at this time because I believe, no matter how you prepare for it, having two city council members running against each other in a difficult race would be a distraction to the many urgent issues facing our city – especially in a district as competitive as this one. I also believe we have weathered a lot of change recently in City Council and it would be wise to avoid too much further upheaval. Finally, I do relish my job serving the citizens of Roanoke and would miss that day-to-day role. While I am an active physician, faculty member and small business owner, I do believe I have much to offer and have the time and energy for a statewide office. I absolutely would consider a run for state office down the road, but at this particular time in this particular race, it just doesn’t feel right to me.

Last but most definitely not least, I indeed would be running against my “sister”, Gwen Mason. She is eager, hard working, and a skilled politician. I know she will run an incredible campaign and that she has thought long and hard about working in the General Assembly. She would represent the 17th District extremely well and I am proud to give her my full support in this campaign.

The Budget Crisis: City and the Schools will work Together

February 19, 2009

While this is absolutely about a crisis and the decisions at hand will impact our community for a long long time- the one piece of good news I believe is how City Council and the School Board have committed to working together on minimizing the impact of this financial crisis on our great city. Perhaps the other piece of good news or even better news is how reasonable and understanding our citizens have been in this process. We are all rolling up our sleaves and participating in the process of making painful decisions in a reasonable and rational manner. We may want one negative option over another negative option- but we all seem willing to accept some negative options and make the best of them.

It hasn’t always been this way. Having served on the School Board and now Council, every year there are big budget decisions especially in the schools that impact the delivery of education to our children. Often these are vehemently opposed, often with good reason but with no options or middle ground offered. Perhaps it is how the economy is effecting us all, or the new political landscape nationally or pehaps the deligent work and presentations of the School Board. But a more reasoned approach seems to be happening with Council and the School Board and our Citizens.

While I have been one of the most vocal supporters of the School system for years- including trying to fund the gap in the PH construction budget and increasing the funding formula years ago- I do have some worry that not all the complicated facts of this budget crisis are being fully grasped and even worse that some politicizing of the facts and numbers may further complicate one’s grasp of the situation. A recent post by a respected blogger (www.starcityharbinger.com) is one example: is City Council going to give $7million or $3 million or what to help the schools? And if it is the lower number, have we shorted the schools yet another $4 million? Unfortunately these are wild numbers with no depth behind them, only a potential target. I worry throwing numbers around before we know how to get there again just complicates our grasp of the situation. The Harbinger also indicates a concern that this council does not fully understand the role of our schools the economic vitality and viability of our city: This City Council does indeed get it and it is priority one as it should be.

What is known is that due to decreased revenue projections, the City will short the school system about $1.6 million, the State about $6 million, sales tax decline about $2 million- though these numbers change daily and some recent news today that the State side may actually improve by a good margin. The Schools indicate heading into this budget they are short approximately $16 million. The City is short in our budget about $9 million. The $16 million on the school side includes the $11 million short from the City and State, and also unfunded mandates such as health care increases, debt service increases of $2.8 million (these uncontrollable cost escalation are normally dealt with every budget year whether there is a recession or not) and then there are provisions for possible further economic deterioration of $2 million.

So large numbers! The School Board is way ahead of City Council in terms of dealing with these numbers. City Council needs to reconcile our $9 million deficit with our budget and then go beyond that to give extra money to the school. Perhaps we need to find not just $9 million but another $7 million out of our budget. My fear is that saying $7 million is a target then we only give say $2 million - many will say that Council is shorting the School system $4 million. The vote this week in my mind was somewhat silly in that in reality it did not mean anything but did give a direction to administration of the need for significant cuts. Even Mayor Bowers was laughing when he raised his hand in support of finding $7 million, knowing it would be next to impossible but would certainly look good politically. For the record, I was the only one mentioning tax increases last week and have asked for a report of trends for tax increases. I am ok with prudent use of rainy day funds but understand that these are primarily for one time emergencies and not recurring costs as we are seeing in the School and City’s deficits. I wll do all I can to first make up for any revenue short fall the City has with the Schools- currently $1.6 million- the County did this and was roundly given credit for doing it. Next, I will work with council to go above this number as far as possible and still keep our city running, vital and progressive- albeit at a slower pace. If we get to $3 million, $7 million or more- great. But if we don’t lets understand that Council is doing everything it can to make the Schools better than whole from our side and under no circumstance at any of these numbers are we not supporting the Schools or symbolically reducing our support. All these numbers are reaches beyond what our revenue is shorting them and we have much work to get there- but the first thing we can do is make them whole.

There is also a blurring of funding available from bonds for capital projects and our operating budget. We can not use the capital money, eg move money that may be used for the market building renovation, for covering deficits in our operating budget. We could defer debt and not have as many capital projects but ultimately would make a small difference in what we are facing. In fact some capital project funding is essential to helping cities navigate their way through recessions and this, again, should not be confused with using this money in ways opposed to helping the school deficit.

Finally, I must say that many forget that the biggest short fall for the Schools is at the hands of the State. The State at some point is going to have to figure out how to get more revenue for the schools, the roads and many other vital services. Everyone is scared to raise taxes but at some point this needs to be considered at a State level- even a temporary gas tax increase would go a long, long way to solving this budget crisis in a more ongoing manner- something the one time Federal Stimulus Package won’t do but hopefully will help this year.

What are your thoughts?

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