What are citizens supposed to say when we have no idea what the city plans on doing and when we have no idea what additional damage the pandemic will bring?
The city let us know at the last city council meeting that the normal city revenues, like sales tax, fees, and property taxes will be severely impacted. City budgets, much like our own family and business budgets, are about how much money we're projecting to get and what we are going to earmark it for throughout the year (the following slides are from the budget presentation on this week's agenda):
Here are the sales tax projections for the rest of the summer. We have no idea what reactions to the pandemic will do to sales tax projections for the rest of 2020 or first half of 2021:
Here are the preliminary property tax revenue projections for the new year:
We will be getting some state and federal relief. Most of that will be going directly to residents and businesses impacted by the lockdowns. During the lockdowns, the city furloughed the many city employees who worked at the Apex, the community centers, and some from the parks department. What should this next year look like for hiring or furloughing city employees? Are pay cuts out of the question in some departments?
Should the city and city council put grand plans on hold, like the new city hall project, like the dream of a park bridge/highway 5 tunnel to connect west downtown to east downtown, airport expansion plans, etc? What if the city asked for a property tax increase to offset the lost revenue so they could continue those plans? What would you be in support of?
Here are a few things to think about for your email or phone comments for the budget public hearing at the meeting on Tuesday:
- Budget cuts do not have to mean any reductions to police and fire. Some cities have been known to threaten that budget cuts mean police and fire cuts. Don't fall for it.
- In 2010, our city decided to create two tax reinvestment zones (TIRZ). The general fund gets a small set amount of money every year from the downtown area in TIRZ#1 and the rest is kept in a special fund to be spent on projects the TIRZ#1 board (made up of City Council and a few others) decides on. There is currently about $9M sitting in the downtown TIRZ#1. It is well within the rules of a TIRZ to dissolve completely or to change the project plans. This might be the right time to rethink the utility of reinvestment zones.
- Is it time to consider zero based budgeting? Here's some information on it:
Can't think of what to email? Think about what you'll be saying to yourself, your employees, and/or your family the rest of this year. How can that be applied to your comments about the city budget?
Here's the info from the agenda about emails on this agenda item #20-0415, citizen input on FY 20/21 budget:
Public Comments regarding agenda items, including Public Hearings, may be submitted by
email to City Council at firstname.lastname@example.org. To be included in the
meeting record, emails regarding agenda items must be received between the time of this
posting and 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 19, 2020.
Here's the link to the agenda
There will also be a work session and a TIRZ #1 meeting set for Tuesday. Be sure to look on legistar for details.