My Side of the Fence

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

CIP Meeting – Importante!

The City Council and the School Board will recieve the joint report on CIP needs for the City and the Schools:  5:30 Monday night at the Candy Factory.  If you have any interest in such a thing…say a school building or other priorities, you might show up.  As a subtle reminder, there is currently $0 in the budget for the CIP.


  1. Not a bad meeting at all last night.  In listening to questions from Council & School Board, several  things crossed my mind:
    1.  Things are broke or breaking, and whether it is like or not, investment in structure is going to have to be intentional by all Elected – no grandstanding, no politics, no "playing to an audience".  Nitpicking tax rates or set-asides for CIP Projects at this point is wasted effort – it is all a plan, and the plan needs to be set now, not later.
    2. All forecasts are built on assumptions/expectations…plan now and adjust as the years evolve.
    3. The City and School Staffs are doing a gangbuster job!
    4. I finally got what I have advocated for – a common, unified CIP format.
    5. Storm water management mandates are the piper which will have to be paid….I like the concept of creating a Storm Water Fund (whatever it ends up being named).  Granted, it does mean at some near time-frame a specific charge on utilities, but the track record of the Utilities Fund (like the airport) shows small dollars can grow into larger ones.
    6. The concept of a fund to have a set-aside for the CIP for both City and MCPS CIP Projects is a great idea. Starting back in 1990, the Feds got serious about Business Operation Funds, and both this concept and the one for Storm Water fall into that classification for a "bag of money".
    Good meeting overall!

  2. I too, was at the meeting but I had to leave at the end of the presentation. A question please, what is the advantage of a seperate "storm water fund"? Why can't these charges be included in the "city bill" which covers water and sewer charges now? It would seem you are creating additional overhead by creating a new "fund".   

  3. I was at the meeting.  It's a start but there is a long way to go.  Those expenditures have some implications on the ops side and we heard nothing about that last night.  Hope the City isn't starving its ops budget to do CIP stuff.  Thats just a dumb as not doing it at all.

  4. Mo, don't think the idea of the Storm Water Fund would be a seperate entity….just another label within the Enterprise Funds which already exist (Electric, Sewer, Solid Waste, Water under Utilites and of course, the Airport Fund).  I imagine for us citizens we would just see it as one more line item in the list of funds in the City Budget.  But given the mandates behind it all, I think having a line item to track local received money into this new line makes since, mainly as all corresponding expenses related to Storm Water projects can be tracked.  Of course also (and I dream big here) if the Feds or State cough up grant money – with no strings – it puts a General Ledger place to park it all.  And I told you I dreamed big – a Fed grant with no strings is a real pipe dream anymore 🙂
    As to the monthly bill, depending on how it was set up, we may/may not see it as a seperate line in the monthly statement.  That's all future.  Andy might be able to add more insite of "future think" about it.

  5. Ray,
    With all due respect, I don't think future federal grants will be as easy to come by. The feds have their own problem in that while they got a tax increase this year, they are still running a $1.6 trillion,  plus or minus a few billion (don't you love that, plus or minus a few billion) deficit each year, therefore they must cut spending. We've seen cuts from our state money ( council has objected to the unfunded mandates by the state) and I don't expect the federal funds will be as plentiful.
    My concern with the "new fund" would be the necessity for a new fund manager, an assistant fund manager, two clerical assistants and a couple of vehicles plus office space, copiers, cell phones………………  l think you get the idea. 

  6. @Mo:  The "Stormwater Utility" is an offshoot of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort.  This is essentially a gaggle of unfunded mandates from the federal and state government. 
    See, the first round of Bay cleanup didn't go so well so the state has come up with a much more expansive, complicated and expensive regulatory regime.  In the first round they focused on "Point Sources" of pollution like sewage treatment plants.  Take a look at your bill and you'll see something called a "UOSA Fee".  UOSA is our local sewage treatment authority.  Look for that line item on your bill to continue climbing as UOSA is issuing debt like it's going outta style in order to pay for the regulartory requirements. 
    However, all of this is not enough – it turns out you can only make sewer water but so clean before you have to look somewhere else for pollution – like all of the agricultural runoff in the watershed and the runoff from urban areas.  Urban areas are a lot easier to hammer for money so the EPA and DEQ put together a regulatory model that will require localities to build stormwater infrastructure.  In order to do this, the City is considering creating a "Stormwater Authority".
    The way this will work is that you get a certain number of credits for building various and sundry projects  (Interestingly, the credit scheme isn't really firmed up yet but the Council continues to approve millions in stormwater infrastructure when we're not even sure we'll get "credit" for it).  The City will have to comply with the regulatory requirements and, to that end, the Stormwater Authority (or whatever we call it) will have to build retention ponds and the like.  In a place like Manassas there really isn't much available space so the Authority might have to condemn private property (houses, commercial buildings) in order to build this stuff.  I'm not making this up: I asked this exact question of staff at the work session and that's the answer I got.  Nobody wants to talk about it though, that's why it won't be paid for with General Fund dollars.
    @Ray: I'll probably sooner be struck by a meteor than we get a grant for this.

  7. Andy and Mo…..hey, I told ya it was a pipe dream about Fed/State grants!  🙂
    Andy, Mo does raise a good point, and with the label of "Stormwater Authority", it does sound like his concern about a new entity stood up within the City is a valid point.  I was viewing the discussion about it as integrating it within our current Public Works as part of the responsibilities of the Utility Commission.  How do you – within context of what you can put public at this point – see it being established?  Thanks!

  8. I see it being an authority.

  9. Andy & Ray,
    Thanks for the information and the education.

  10. Andy, thanks!   Yeah, given the nature of the mandates, I see the logic in having it as an Authority. 

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