Council discusses capital projects budget

— The City Council pledged Wednesday night to attempt to make capital projects account for 15 percent of the city's budget in the future, though council members realized that goal is going to be difficult to attain.

"The philosophy of our council is to be getting a percentage based on our budget that would always go for capital projects," said Council President Kathy Connell.

Without going into reserves, the city had only about 1 percent of its more than $20 million budget available for capital projects this year after paying for services. It has somewhat similar projections for the future.

Capital items have been slashed in the past few years as the city attempted to balance its budget. Though some, including City Council President Pro Tem Paul Strong, have balked at cutting capital first, the consensus has generally been that capital cuts are more palatable than service cuts.

With that in mind, however, the council realized Wednesday that it could defer capital for only so long if it wanted to maintain services and working conditions for employees, many of whom work in a leaky city hall.

The five-year capital improvements plan shows a potential need for $55 million worth of capital improvements through 2006. That includes a new public safety center, an expansion of the transit fleet and a new access location for Emerald Park. Some of that revenue, however, may come from grants.

The city will also look at adding new projects to the list, including a downtown parking structure, said Councilman Bud Romberg. The council cut the parking structure out of the long-range plan during 2001 budget talks but may revisit that item in the near future.

The city will also likely be receiving less revenue from development impact fees than previously anticipated in part because of new state regulations and a projected drop-off in construction, said Finance Director Don Taylor.

While the city initially thought it would be getting up to $1.5 million in impact fee revenue, which goes toward growth-related capital projects, every year, new projections could put that figure below $500,000, Taylor said.

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