Tuesday, February 18, 2014

VC 2/18: Budget, Treasurer's Report, Goals, and Water

Dear People:  Did you know that today is the birthday of BOTH Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison?   Two wise women who are a gift of this long cold month of February, when, nevertheless, the sap begins to flow in the maples and the rumbling, warm, unstoppable energy of spring starts breaking through the ice.  And Bill Felker walked into Norah's this morning and confirmed that this really is the first week of early spring. 

So I'll end with a couple of favorite statements from both of those "early Spring" February women. 
But, yep, we have a Council meeting tonight, so let's get down to it.  Here's the packet, if you want to play along at home.  By the way, there are some great little reports from HRC and the Police Department, as well as our budget and treasurer's report and goals--lots of colorful charts and clarity and good information. 

(I realize I just waxed rhapsodic about Toni Morrison and Audre Lorde, so it feels funny to want to issue a paean to the clear report, but then I'm also a fan of Edward Tufte...)

BUDGET SESSION (6:00 pm) General Fund Budget
Marianne MacQueen's thoughts about the Budget, sent as a public document to the entire Council because she'll be gone tonight, are eloquent and deserve a wider audience, I believe, so I'm going to share them here, in italics their entirety, with a few brief comments of my own: 
MacQueen  on 2014 Budget

General Fund Budget
I’m concerned about the potential .5 M shortfall in the projected 2014 budget that does not even include any capital expenses. I understand from Melissa that this is a very conservative budget meaning that income could be higher and expenses lower. None-the-less it is the budget we have. I’m unclear about when the current “temporary” levy will be up for a vote. The loss of that revenue will create even greater problems. 
{LJA: I share this concern.  I would note that we intentionally wanted to spend some of our surplus, which is substantial, because deferred maintenance is also a serious problem.  But we do have to be concerned about the current imbalance between revenues and expenditures.}

I have an overarching concern that the community be made aware about the budget and the issues we face. The more the community understands, the more we can gather from the community what is of most importance in terms of services we provide. In addition, I’m hopeful that the community will recognize the importance of increasing revenue, in particular, through expanded economic activities. I’m hopeful that the YS News will pick up on this as well.

As we consider increasing the use of electronic media and social media in particular, we might consider these venues as means for community input into the budget. I’ve read of a community (possibly Gavin Newsome in San Francisco) that used this as a method to getting the community to prioritize the most important services. 
{LJA:  This is not a bad idea--the thing is, our means are very limited, and educating people about the means at our disposal is in all our best interests.  I don't see it happening this year, with our new staff needing to just get their feet on the ground, but I could see us moving this direction in the future.}
• Police Department:
Expenses related to policing comprise over half of our General Fund budget. We are not a high crime community and we have a lowered population than in the past as well as a lower college student population. Even though we do have bleed-over from neighboring communities where crime is more of an issue, I question whether we need to number of personnel in this department. At this point I would not consider expending the department. This would result in $105K in savings for 2014. I understand this is a sensitive issue and I am not suggesting disbanding the dispatch department in favor of regionalizing.
{LJA: I share this concern, and I believe that we do have to consider all our options carefully both for police and dispatch.}

• Contractual Services: It makes sense to review Contractual Service expenses and see if there are ways in the future to minimize these. There may be ways to use volunteer services within the village in conjunction with paid consultants to lower these costs. We may also need to look at our legal expenses and how to minimize these.
{LJA: I agree, but I am mostly opposed to depending on volunteers for vital services; I believe people should be paid for their work.}
• Green Space Fund: I would favor not funding the Green Space fund in 2014 since there is approximately $250,000 in the fund and there is no request at present for these funds.  {LJA I agree.}

Special Revenue Funds Budget
I support a planned maintenance program in terms of street repair and upkeep. I assume we have such a program. Given the state of this budget, however, I would be in favor of going slowly with this in 2014 and focus on the most critical issues. I support maintaining the pool although I would omit less critical expenses. The 2014 budget includes nothing for economic development and I support that at this time. However, it is critical that Council and our new Village Manager treat economic development seriously. I will work toward that end in 2014. 

Capital Budget
• I imagine that there will be only incidental expenses for the CBE in 2014. This is and will be a complex issue.
• In light of our financial situation, I believe we need to review our sidewalk policy and plan for repairs of the most highly used walks to be staged over a period of years. While I see a rationale for the Village to fund sidewalk repairs, I’m not sure that makes sense in every case. I definitely support some sidewalk repairs in 2014  
{LJA:  Our current policy is to do sidewalk repairs ourselves.  Until we have a change of policy, which I believe would also require a stronger Planning department, we need to develop and carry out a plan for replacement and repair.}
• In Fair Acres I would hold off the street repairs until the infrastructure repairs are completed. 
{LJA: My sense is that this has been the plan, but I'll make sure that's the case.}
• I would avoid buying any new equipment for any department that is not critical.
• I suggest not funding anything in the Parks & Rec. Improvement Fund, in particular the $140,000 for bridges at Ellis Park. Perhaps this, as well as some of the pool expenses, could be done through special fundraising work by community members who appreciate these amenities. 
{LJA:  I need to look at the Fund.  Part of our commitment in the levy was to our parks, esp. the pool.  So I want to better understand the state of this part of the budget and if there are funds set aside for this purpose.}
• Sutton Farm-PW Facility Improvement has been on the table for a long time. Even though it doesn’t seem that we have funds to do much this year, I would support a plan for incremental improvements.
• I support whatever is most critical in terms of repairs for the library. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to me that we have the funds to do anywhere near the $400,000 in improvements requested for this year. 
LJA: Again, I need to look at the Fund.  Part of our commitment in the levy was to our library, too.  So I want to better understand the state of this part of the budget and the funds we have set aside for this purpose..}
• In the Electric Fund I would hold off any improvements and repairs that aren’t critical.
• In the Water and Sewer Funds, I support beginning the Fair Acre repairs but this necessities the decision regarding how these will be paid for. I would tend to take Kent’s lead on this as well as considering common practice in other communities and the historical approach used in Yellow Springs.
• I do support moving forward on the water line bottle neck issues.
  {LJA:  Note that the Mgr's Report notes that we have gotten a green light on the state grant funding toward this project ($400K) so it will go forward, as will some work on the Cemetery Street housing project and the water service near the new hotel location downtown on the Barr property--see report below.  These, to me, are vital projects for our long-term economic sustainability.}
Minutes of February 3, 2013 Regular Council Meeting.
At this time, Council may add to the Agenda any other such matters as they may wish to discuss.
    The Clerk will receive and file (On Line):
    Mike DeWine re: Drug Abuse Awareness Town Hall Greene County Library re: March Schedule GCCHD re: Private Well Webinars
    GCCHD re: 5K

    GCAOA: Insights Newsletter
    Reading of Resolution 2014-11 Authorizing Payment with a Then and Now Certificate for First Quarter of 2014

  3. CITIZEN CONCERNS (7:15 pm)
  4. SPECIAL REPORTS (7:20 pm) Quarterly Treasurer’s Report
    HRC Annual Report
  5. OLD BUSINESS (7:45 pm)
    Presentation on Scenarios for Water Sourcing Including Timeline

    From Mgr Rpt 2/14:  To give a comprehensive view of our water source options we need current information on the costs of the Springfield option. Last November the Springfield City Manager confirmed that they were still interested in having Yellow Springs for a customer. He did say that they would now probably want to have the contract effective for a longer term in order to recover their up-front costs (15 years instead of ten). During our staff discussion about presenting information to Council we realized that we need to tell Springfield about the reduced volume we now need based on recalibration of our water plant output (down from 164 million gallons/year to 120 million gallons/year). The people in Springfield are reviewing the new information and it may affect our cost per thousand gallons and possibly other aspects of a supply contract.
    2014 Council Goals-- see packet.  Karen's work is excellent here.
  6. NEW BUSINESS (8:25 pm)
Water Rate Increase Discussion:  I have propsed that in addition to the 3% scheduled increase that we must have a larger increase in our budget (say 10%) to take effect this April, as this fund is rapidly going into the red just when we are needing to invest mightily in new water sourcing--one way or another--see the manager's report.
  1. MANAGER’S REPORT (8:45 pm) excerpts from 2/7 note and 2/14 note:
(2/7)  The sanitary sewer on East Limestone Street is theoretically capable of handling the output from the new hotel in addition to its existing users. But the line is old and in bad condition. Rather than waiting for the inevitable problems to develop, I have asked Mike Heintz to design a replacement, larger sewer line at a cost of $3000 (for the design, not the sewer). I plan to bid three projects at once in the next moth or so Cemetery Street water line, and both the storm and sanitary sewers on East Limestone Street. The Greene County Economic Development Director feels this project could be a TIF, which would reimburse the Village for infrastructure costs (including a water line extension) from the increased tax revenues generated by the hotel.


We just now received notice that our application for a $400,000 grant for the water line loop completion project has been approved. We will receive a contract on or after July 1, 2014, presuming the budget allocation goes as expected.

Verizon is now ready to build their cell phone tower on land they leased from the Village at the rear of Bryan Center. They asked for and received permits several years ago, but those permits expire if unexercised within a year. This means they will need to go back through the process at a time they are ready to go.
"A Litany for Survival"  ~~ Audre Lorde

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours
For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid.
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.

“Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.”
Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

"The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek - it must be rejected, altered and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind. Sexist language, racist language, theistic language - all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas." -- Toni Morrison's Nobel Prize speech which you can read or listen to here