My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

Budget Summit

Well, the budget summit is over.  I’m happy to report that it went very well.  Everyone was well prepared (old COM brought a really good list of quesitons) and we had a great discussion.  Dan and Dave brought laptops with notes!  I’ll take a bit of a risk and say that there was some concern over a couple of details but overall, everyone generally agreed that it’s a practical, if status quo, budget.  Please note that I’m not indicating that anyone present would “vote” for this budget, just that they thought it was practical.

Most of the concern was over the staff changes.  I don’t know that there was agreement over the Museum positions but I do know that the Director of HR position wasn’t very popular due to the cost associated with it.  It is a director-level position so it’ll be north of $120,000 year I’d guess.  That’s a lot of money.  We didn’t get a chance to discuss staff salaries/raises but that issue will recieve a ton of scrutiny from the Council in any event.

The two other items that were discussed at some length were the city’s Strategic plan and the Museum.  The strategic plan and how it was tied to the budget was a good discussion and it was gratifying that someone other than me brought it up! (I think the Council should spend more time on the strategic plan and how it relates to the budget but that’s a discussion for a different day)  The Museum was discussed at some length as well.  My general take on that is that people like the Museum but want it to perform better and I agree with that.  Steve Thomas, who is on the Museum board, laid out for those present how they’re going about getting that done.

The other thing I love about these kinds of meetings is the opportunity to explain stuff that doesn’t make a lot of sense until someone walks you through it.  Take, for instance, the airport.  Given the numbers in the budget, it isn’t obvious that it doesn’t cost the City any money…but it doesn’t.  We used to have to subsidize it but it now operates profitably.

It went so well, I’d consider doing another one in a couple of weeks or maybe even asking folks to serve on a “budget committee” of sorts in order to get feedback.  Before I do that, I pledge to Dan and Dave that I’ll find a blind for the window so you won’t have to sit in the sun again.  Sorry about that…


  1. On the Strategic Plan: I shall say it at every opportunity for a Public Hearing on this Budget that Pat building the budget around it, then aligning each department/divison to it, and then in her presentation relating every major outlay such as the new 800mhz radios (to quote a statement “that’s a lot of money”) and even the economics of the Musuem position is the most outstanding move in years. Edmund Burke, the father of fiscal conservatism, points out that when funds are available and when implementing new expenses, do it by a plan! If I had not been out of town and had attended the meeting, I would probably have jumped in from the get-go on the Plan…it does need to be reviewed and some of the specific descriptors need to be either removed or updated, but the end result should be continuning using the Plan in the out-years.

    On the Musuem Director: we expended a lot of funds for the 150th Anniversary and an economic report was published. I too am concerned it is a high salary for someone coordinating tourism….and the position should be anchored to the predicitions of that report. Add to that the recent Strategic Plan from the Musuem and possibly within five years the many of us who are waiting to see if the economic report analysis and recommendations do have positive results.

    On the Airport: I love the airport, and it is a cash cow we are not milking enough. That said, kudos to the Director and his six staff members for their work! That is also a fact many do not know – that complex is run by seven people who multi-task and coordinate the various companies and contracts. The evidence-based fact it is also the #5 airport in Virginia for take offs and landings is also commendable….especially when the first four – Dulles, Reagan, Richmond and Norfolk – are all larger, but our General Aviation services makes us tops!

  2. I thought the gathering went well, and thanks again, Andy for opening your home to allow it to take place. It would seem possible to make more use and or get more benefit from having both an airport and a train station. The entire area around the DMV and Airport hopefully will see some sort of new and “forward thinking” development at some point in the next few years, and maybe a redisign or updating of the industrial area that runs along that section of Godwin as well.

  3. Andy, I can barely see this blog post due to temporary blindness from the sun! Kidding. Had a great time and I too thank you (and the Mrs.) for the hospitality and civic fellowship. I definitely think some of those new positions need to be studied very carefully to get as much assurance as possible of return on investment. I’m also hoping council looks very closely at leasing over purchasing of new vehicles, vis a vis the fleet plan. Big ticket items are worth some extreme due diligence. Thanks again.

  4. I have a hunch that overall, most are accepting the budget given the first Public Hearing had one person (me) addressing various points across it; two supporting continuning Community Contributions; and one for support of NoVA Community College.

    Or maybe all just waiting to see what Council version says? Maybe not. Pat Weiler and all the City Staff did a great job in preparing it and basing everything in fact. Since no real hot buttons, maybe a quiet session in terms of citizens storming City Hall?

    For the readers and posters here: Andy approached me last night and asked if another Summit might be in order. I agreed with him and suggested possibly after the Council releases their version. Voice your opinions if another session should be!

  5. To be honest Ray, I just don’t think most of the citizens care about the budget.

  6. David, you are correct, my friend!

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