FSC and council talk Thursday

By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Know and Go What: City Council/Fiscal Sustainability Committee Workshop When: 6 p.m. April 19 Where: Lincoln City Hall, 600 6 th St. Information: 434-2490 A discussion and sense of direction are the outcome some councilmen are looking for from next Thursday’s fiscal sustainability committee (FSC) workshop. “I’m looking for consensus from the balance of the council on setting a clear direction for our future,” Councilman Stan Nader said Monday. “The FSC gave us a menu of things that we as a council can choose from and I would hope there would be consensus that some things are worth investigating.” The resident-comprised committee was formed last April at the request of Nader, according to previous News Messenger reports. The fiscal sustainability committee’s primary mission has been “to review and analyze the current financial situation and determine both the near-term and long-term fiscal implications of all city funds and to make recommendations leading to long-term fiscal sustainability.” The committee delivered its report, which included 112 recommendations, to the city on Feb. 24, according to committee chairman Richard Pearl. The report is 375 pages. At the April 19 meeting, Pearl said, the committee would be “presenting our report in detail.” “There are seven major sections and each of the subcommittee chairs will be going over their sections,” Pearl said. The seven subcommittees are communications, internal services, core principles, special funds/redevelopment agency/public facilities element, compensation, General Fund and enterprise fund. Pearl said City Council will “have the opportunity to ask questions” and plans to limit the committee’s presentation to 45 minutes. “We want to be able to get through the major points and have sufficient time for the council to ask questions,” Pearl said. “We’re hoping that the council will respond to our report. We’re very interested in hearing what they think about it and we hope, after all the work we’ve done, that it will be accepted in a positive fashion.” Nader referred to the workshop as “long-awaited.” “We need to give staff direction to do further, more detailed analysis of some of the options that are before us,” Nader said. “I’m not advocating for any particular direction. We just need to understand what each option involves.” Councilman Tom Cosgrove said the workshop would be “an opportunity to just ask some questions about some of the details that are in the report and the thinking that was behind some of the conclusions and recommendations.” “I’m hoping (through) the discussion, we get a little bit more of a sense of direction on honestly what the group feels we should be doing next,” Cosgrove said. Through the discussion, Cosgrove said, he would like to “move toward a more defined plan.” “To me, the report is more of a narrative than it is an outline of a plan and I’d like to take the opportunity of meeting with the group to take that narrative and maybe through discussion define it more as a plan of steps,” Cosgrove said. “I work in a more linear fashion, and in my private sector experience, we developed a plan that had steps and milestones. The work that they’ve done is really good work, I would just like to get it more defined.” Part of the discussion would be to “talk about the steps that have already been done consistent with their recommendations,” according to Cosgrove. Councilman Gabriel Hydrick said he wants the workshop to result in “a consensus by the council as to what we want to look at implementing immediately and get staff working on it.” “I’d like to explore options and costs for the General Fund right up front,” Hydrick said. “Take a look at the costs savings, if there are any, to those departments and get staff on that.” “What concerns me is the expenses that go to the General Fund, which is payment for City Hall. Those are allocated to different departments and shouldn’t be,” Hydrick said. The development services expenses would be shifted to the General Fund once the development fund is “depleted in a year, year and a half,” according to Hydrick. “I’m looking at different tasks, like to see if we could rent out the third floor of City Hall to help with the cost of the payments for City Hall,” Hydrick said. “I personally really don’t favor us trying to rent that out because that means we compete with private industry. I think this is one case where we kind of break or bend the rule because if we don’t have money coming into the General Fund, 42,000 people are left with nothing and we go bankrupt.” Mayor Spencer Short said he is “not sure what I’m hoping for will come out of this meeting.” “What the goal of this whole process has been was to develop a plan looking at all facets of city finance,” Short said. “A comprehensive plan is what was always envisioned and, so far, I have not yet seen a comprehensive plan come from this.” The recommendations made, to Short, “are at times conflicting and they lack a rational explanation of the values of each recommendation.” Short said he has “too many questions that are still unanswered” but would not say what those questions were. “I think the committee needs to hear my questions first,” Short said. “I’m looking forward to the meeting and hopefully my questions get answered and we move ahead.” To Councilman Paul Joiner, the upcoming workshop “is an opportunity for the council, city staff, the fiscal sustainability plan committee, the public and any other interested parties to discuss the recommendations and supporting data contained in the FSC report in a less formal environment.” “It’s a chance for the FSC to make a presentation of the information and explain the rational behind its suggestions,” Joiner said. “It’s a chance for the council to ask questions and seek clarifications of the committee. Most importantly, it’s an opportunity for the public to hear the report, ask questions, share concerns and/or support and generally give their input regarding the report to the council.”