FSC report release delayed

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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The release of a much-anticipated fiscal sustainability report has been postponed from Jan. 30 to Feb. 21. Fiscal sustainability committee chairman Richard Pearl said the decision to delay delivery of the report was made at the committee’s Jan. 18 meeting. The resident-comprised committee was formed last April at the request of City Councilman Stan Nader and meets at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays at City Hall. The fiscal sustainability committee’s primary mission is “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, according to previous News Messenger reports. “During the subcommittee peer-group review process, it became clear that more time would be necessary to assure that everything was as fact-based as possible and all potential questions and options were explored,” Pearl said. “Additionally, the inter-relationships necessary between the various subcommittees became more apparent than originally anticipated.” There are eight subcommittees, according to Pearl, which are communications; core principles; general and development funds; enterprise funds; redevelopment agency; special funds and public facility element; compensation; and general services. Each subcommittee report is being reviewed by another subcommittee, according to Pearl. “Any time you are dealing with a complex analysis, there are holes you find,” Pearl said. “We pair each of the subcommittees up with another subcommittee. They have to go and talk with them, present their findings. They have to justify it to the other group.” As of Jan. 18, Pearl said, the fiscal sustainability committee was “75-percent solid at this point” with the report. “We want to make sure it’s as good as we can possibly make it,” Pearl said. “Given the level of detail that we are going into, we’d rather take a little more time and get it right.” The Jan. 30 date “was a self-imposed deadline,” Pearl said, and that the committee’s work “went a little slower than we anticipated.” He cited the August tanker fire and then the holidays as factors. Pearl said the fiscal sustainability committee will hold a review and vote for each subcommittee report on Feb. 16 and 17, with a report release date of Feb. 21. Nader, who talked about the need for a fiscal sustainability plan during his campaign for City Council in 2010, said he’s “not terribly upset” by the delay. “I feel that this is a big enough issue so we don’t want to do a half-baked job,” Nader said. “I think adding another three weeks made sense in light of where they are.” Nader said he has been “checking in (on the committee) from time to time since this was kind of my baby.” “I could see they were getting bogged down,” Nader said. “They could meet the timetable but then they maybe would not feel as comfortable about their report.” Nader said the report’s release means “we are one day closer to becoming fiscally sustainable.” Since he wants the report “done right,” Mayor Spencer Short approves of the delay. “We want it to be complete and thorough,” Short said. “This is an important subject. There’s no excuse for it not to be complete and thorough when we are talking the city’s finances for the next several years.” When the committee releases the report “is their decision to make,” said Councilman Tom Cosgrove. “They set their deadline,” Cosgrove said. “I actually thought it was a very aggressive deadline and would have been surprised had they been able to meet that.” Cosgrove said he thinks “it’s helpful” having a third-party look at the city’s current financial circumstances to “get some fresh viewpoints on how to deal with them.” “There’s a lot of hard work that’s gone into this and I’m sure that they realized that it’s important to put out a well-developed and put-together report than to try and meet the deadline,” Cosgrove said. “I am interested in seeing the report when it’s completed and being able to move forward based up on the information provided.” Councilman Gabriel Hydrick said he is “fine” with the report’s delay. “I like to do things right the first time, and if that means giving them some extra time so it’s done right and they are comfortable and confident in it, we should give them some more time,” Hydrick said. “We need them to be confident in their numbers. If they are going to be presenting the information that the council is going to take seriously, they should be confident in the numbers.” Councilman Paul Joiner also did not mind the report's delay. "I would much rather the FSC push back the release date and produce a complete, accurate and well thought out report than rush to complete it by a self imposed deadline and make mistakes," Joiner said.