Lincoln City Council column
As I was walking out of a coffee shop today, a resident asked me why we were approving all of this new development. He basically said, “Why do you support growth?” This question is often asked of council members.
A simplistic answer is that the city General Plan adopted in 2008 calls for measured growth for the next 35-plus years. This plan was put together by members of city governance and by many community members working on sub-committees and attending a myriad of open sessions during at least a two-year period.
A more complete answer is that growth must occur to continue providing the services that enhance our lifestyle. Lincoln is a full-service city, meaning all primary services (police, fire, streets maintenance, parks, recreation and library) are provided by our General Fund. Many cities, particularly new ones, have special districts providing some, if not all, of these services. By using special districts for those services, funding comes from district assessments (taxes) and not the city’s General Fund.
The Lincoln City 2016-2017 budget shows that income from property and sales taxes provided essentially 58 percent of the General Fund while our police and fire services consumed about 60 percent of the General Fund. Both of these services, incidentally, are understaffed and stretched thin! Somehow, we need to generate more income.
Newly-negotiated property tax sharing rates for our new annexations will assure we get a greater share of the property tax the county collects from the new developments. And a greater population means more retail sales generating more sales tax staying in the city rather than migrating to other cities.
Each of the new development agreements with the developers require the use of a Community Facilities District (CFD) to augment our General Fund for the additional operation costs. These CFDs are for safety services (police, fire) and for lighting, landscaping and street maintenance. These mitigations will free up money in the General Fund to restore the other city programs eliminated or minimized for lack of funds (library/recreation).
An additional question I always get is something like, “Do we have enough water to support more population?” The answer is yes. Lincoln has never used the total amount of water we have under contract with Placer County Water Agency and Nevada Irrigation District. While we have the capacity for more water than we use, we don’t have all of the delivery infrastructure currently in place. The additional infrastructure will be paid for and in some cases built by the developers themselves.
The basic thread running through all of the other questions combines two themes – retaining our “small town feel” and negatively affecting my own lifestyle.
I have asked many people to define what the “small town feel” is and have yet to receive a concise answer. It seems that in all cases, it is an amorphous conglomeration of observations like our parades, people supporting the community, helping their neighbors, trails and open spaces, accessibility of governing officials and certainly the Potters.
To my way of thinking, none of these are tied to the number of people in the community but are tied to the culture that is fostered by the civic involvement embraced by various service clubs, churches, nonprofit groups (i.e. Friends of McBean Park) and certainly the city government itself. I remember the first time Lincoln hosted a Relay for Life. The outpouring of support by the community was overwhelming and astounded organizers by generating more than triple the expected amount of money. This was not tied to the magnitude of our population but by the commitment to support. And there is nothing more “small town” than a Potters game on a summer evening. None of these aspects of a “small town” can be destroyed by population growth if we maintain our culture.
The city has learned some hard lessons over the last 20 years. From a sleepy town to the fastest-growing city in California, to the housing crash with massive foreclosures, to a city that faced monumental financial deficits, one can learn the pitfalls of unbridled development. The lessons learned have resulted in a much more mature and studied growth path.
Neighborhood parks are built by the developer of the neighborhood, not funded by him to be built later.
Annexations are negotiated with the county to achieve a realistic recovery of the real costs in the annexed area.
Developments will fund their direct impact on operations and maintenance provided by the General Fund through CFDs.
Public Facility Element (PFE) funds will be sufficient to support the infrastructure needed by the new developments.
I know this has been a complex answer to a seemingly simple question but all of this just barely touches the surface. I hope these thoughts have given you an idea of “why I support our growth.”
Dan Karleskint is a Lincoln City Councilman.