The council is currently working to craft a 5-year forecast. In a typical year the 5-year forecast would be done by November 15th and forwarded to our friends on the School Board. What was to be the final worksession on the 5-year forecast was held this past Wednesday (no citizens in attendance). The Council failed to reach a consensus. This seems to have happened for a couple of reasons:
1. The forecast documents were not distributed in advance of the meeting. This meant that Council members had no time to consult with one another on the different scenarios. Put differently, there was no time for politics and politics are necessary right about now. The proposed tax rate increase was 9 cents. I'm surprised staff would propose such an increase. Safe to say, that ain't happening. Council needed time to consult to figure out what was workable.
2. This year is a little different. The City is planning to sell a bond next year in order to build some roads and do a couple of stormwater projects. The 5-year forecast prepared by the staff includes a suggestion that the Council raise taxes to support that bond. I've been on the Council for 6 years and can't remember ever voting to raise taxes to support the general fund in a meaningful way. Neither can most of my fellow Council members. That means that it's kinda new and needs discussion.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the evolving CIP process and how we craft the forecast to respond to that process. It seems clear at this point that on either the City side or the Schools side something is going to get built: we have a lot of aging infrastructure and enrollment keeps climbing. Do we put money in the forecast to support the construction of a school in a couple of years? Does putting the money in the forecast now "telegraph" our intent? Should it?
For my part, I favor a straghtforward, honest process. I do believe we need to start doing some capital projects. That's going to take money. I do want the Council and Manager to scour the city budget so we can keep our costs low. I want the schools to do the same. I want the schools to know that, while we're prepared to pay for infrastructure, they need to keep a tighter lid on costs. I don't want to achieve any of these ends by playing games with the CIP. Let's put the funds into the forecast and pass the guidance on to our staff and schools. It's the only way to have a healthy, community-based debate about the whole thing. Further delay in putting this information out there only stunts the process.
IMPORTANT: The next 5-year forecast meeting is Tuesday night at 5:30. If you have interest in CIP funding for schools, etc, you should be there!
IMPORTANT 2: Here is a link to the staff proposed 5-year forecast.