At the April 2nd Fiscal Committee meeting, they talked about the need for a better process and tasked council budget/audit staff to gather information to establish a policy regarding surplus/unobligated CIP funds in a calendar year so they don't have to revisit this issue/problem every year. And they asked the administration to bring forth some recommendations on how to use the money. Tick, Tock, as we go into the second quarter of the year with no decision yet on what to do with that surplus money. Still talking.
At the May 1st Fiscal Committee meeting, the city finance director presented 3 options to the city council on how to spend the surplus money:
- Option A moves $300,000 to the current 2012 CIP because there is not enough money for the 14th Street project between Minnesota Ave and Phillips Ave. The remainder of the money would go to arterial street construction projects.
- Option B identifies 8 different public works projects related to street improvements, including the 14th Street project that needs an infusion of additional money.
- Option C sets aside money for quality of life projects like an aquatics center at Spellerberg Park, etc.
Back and forth, back and forth they went trying to find a date. When the date went to the middle of June, Councilor Karsky spoke up and said why can't we do this sooner? They finally settled on a May 21st working session.
The calendar year will be, at a minimum, half over before a decision is made regarding that surplus money. Not much leeway time for public works to get those projects cranked up and shovel ready. There has got to be a better way to deal with this issue and yes, a policy might help them get there since it seems they can only talk about it a month at a time. This whole thing is a good example of government moving at a snails pace and never getting anything done.
I have an idea for a policy. The minute the finance department identifies a surplus in CIP funds, the finance director notifies the mayor who in turn requires directors to identify priorities/needs, whether it be ongoing projects, infrastructure or building maintenance needs that have cropped up since the plan was adopted, or emergency capital needs. The administration would present their recommendations to the City Council, who would review the administration's recommendations, and set the priorities for how the surplus money is to be spent. How hard is that?
Then maybe, the city council won't have to spend half a year talking and talking about what to do and citizens can see a little pro-active action in city government. Oh, and it would be nice if the mayor doesn't hijack the information flow to the city council. After all, the city council is the final decision maker on all fiscal matters. Although the council is taking their sweet time resolving this matter, the blame for this delay lays squarely with the mayor who wouldn't even share information regarding directors' recommendations on where the surplus money should be directed to in the first place.
This whole thing is not a good representation of effective government and business acumen.