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Sunday, 21 December 2014 08:22

Quarterly Rpt Oct - Dec 2014

Written by 

Generally, this report is submitted after the end of a quarter and delivered with the water bill.  This is the third “Mayor’s Quarterly Report” and it is a little early (December ends the quarter) primarily due to the holiday season and the opportunity to save some cost by including it in this required mailing to inform the public of a bad water sample (enclosed).

In order to keep the letter portion of this report focused on key topics that I believe will be of more immediate or vital interest to the community, I will be adding a second page listing the status of the many active projects and efforts of the city. 

You will see from this letter and the project list that the city has no shortage of things to do.  Most of the projects are part of building a foundation for the future development and growth of our community, and are in the early stages; however, if you monitor the list over time you should see continued progress.

Improvements to City Water & Sewer Both of these projects are in the funding stage.  Once funding is secured, the water project will proceed at a more rapid rate than the sewer upgrades.  You will notice a report of a bad water sample enclosed with this letter.  The report is just what it seems.  These happen from time to time; however, a single bad sample is not uncommon.  It does not become an issue until multiple bad samples are produced.  The upgrade to Marshfield’s water system approved by voters is the answer—and it is underway, but it will take a little time.

Aquatic/Activity ComplexIn November, a ballot issue seeking the approval of a ½ cent sales tax for “Local Parks” to be used primarily for the construction and operation of an Aquatic/Activity Complex received a 70% approval by Marshfield voters.  This tax will not be collected until beginning April of 2015; however, the project is continuing to move forward in order to see it’s completion as quickly as possible.  The next step is site selection, which is being handled by the Board of Aldermen.  Once a site is selected, the architect (SAPP Design) will present a timeline for completion, and the project will be monitored by a team appointed by the Parks Advisory Committee.

In addition to the Complex itself, the city is in the initial stage of reviewing all recreational programs.  Our goal is to evaluate what works and what does not.  We are committed to providing the best programs and opportunities for fitness activity, social interaction, and entertainment possible, but it will require your help.  This is an area where we really need community input; therefore, the city will be scheduling a public meeting to capture ideas, and vision cast for our recreational programs and activities.  The date, time, and location will be announced.  It will most likely take place in January, and I hope you will see this as an opportunity to get involved and make a difference.     

Website The city has enlisted the help of Chris Hartzler and Rachael Wipf to give a face-lift to the current web presence.  The site is scheduled to be rolled out very soon.  Our goal is to provide a site that is easier to navigate, attractive, and accommodating to the needs of current and future citizens, and future businesses.  There is an effort underway to define a vision for the city of Marshfield, then design a plan to achieve the vision, and develop a 20 year plan for growth and development; however, there are also budget constraints.  Website development is a very necessary, but expensive task, but we are fortunate that this first step is simply a redesign of the free “Joomla” site already used by the city.  It is cost effective, and will still achieve many of our goals. 

This redesign is the first step of many to present our city in a way that reflects our future direction as opposed to simply providing access to some of our services.  The goal for this first phase is to include a community master calendar, a more modern look, better connection to social media, and improved representation of city services, organizations, and businesses, along with better interaction using online forms and a “How are we doing?” feedback feature.

Among other great features, phase two is projected to include “Online Bill Paying.”  Keep plugged in.  We will get the word out once the site is operational, and we look forward to your feedback.

2015Budget The 2015 Budget process is in its final stage.  The proposed budget has been presented to the BOA, and by the time this letter goes out, the budget will most likely be approved.

This year has been very different in regard to budget preparation.  The BOA confirmed a team of five citizens to serve on a committee, and opened the door for complete transparency in regard to city finances.  The team has done an exceptional job.  They have looked at every department in detail.  In the end, the budget being presented is very bare bones.  The process included each department writing narratives to explain, justify, and prioritize each and every line item requiring funds.  City staff cooperated fully and submitted their initial requests, and the committee worked through the requests line by line in order to determine the high priority items.  Realizing that the city does not have sufficient revenue to fund all the high priority items, the proposed budget was sent back to the departments to trim down further.  After reviewing the trimmed down budget and realizing that there is not enough revenue to fund all the items requested, the committee asked departments to identify critical items that have to be funded.  Finally, with this third go around, the team was able to find a balance in the budget that reveals ten thousand dollars more in revenue than expenditures in the General Operating Fund..

The committee presented the proposed budget to the BOA last night. It is being reviewed, and is expected to be finalized on the 18th.  During the presentation the committee members made the following observations to the BOA:

  • City staff did an excellent job working with them and being transparent in the process.
  • While the budget is balanced, there are many items that are badly needed (i.e. replacement of very old equipment) that will not be funded due to a lack of revenue, and no reserves from which to draw.
  • There are very few places that the city can reduce costs beyond what it has already done.  Addressing healthcare costs in an open and constructive way (i.e. changing plans and/or terms) should be a priority in 2015.  Addressing revenue issues should also be a top priority in 2015, specifically the Transportation Tax…

The Transportation Tax is a half-cent sales tax that was approved by voters in 2005 and began collection in 2006.  The tax was primarily intended to fund the Spur Drive Improvement Project.  The bond on the project was for 4 million dollars; however, the project came in well under that amount which left considerable funds unspent.  The tax itself produces approximately 600 thousand dollars per year in revenue.  Approximately 450 thousand is needed to pay the principal and interest on the bond debt. The state allows the surplus dollars to be used to fund many of the expenditures incurred by the Street Department; however, if the city does not spend the surplus dollars, there will be enough funds available at the end of 2016 to make final payment on the bond, which will provide a great opportunity for Marshfield…

I plan to ask the BOA to approve a ballot issue to seek the permission of Marshfield voters to extend the ½ cent Transportation Sales Tax indefinitely.  The tax is currently going to expire (sunset) in 2020; however, if approved, the city will be able to pay off the bond in 2016, which will allow the city to seek voter approval to bond new capital improvement projects.  The question on the ballot will restrict at least two-thirds of the tax revenue to capital improvements for projects like giving a face-lift to the city square, building connecting roads that will allow easier access to I-44 and space for economic growth, and fixing dangerous intersections throughout town.  The remaining one-third will be used to pave and maintain existing roads and street projects. 

If approved, the community will simply continue to pay the same tax rate that it currently does, but the fund itself will become a resource to fund better roads, an attractive square, and growth for many years to come.

On behalf of the BOA, city staff, and myself, I want to express our sincere appreciation to the members of the budget committee who met weekly over the past 3 months to help the city in the budget process.  Your sacrifice is valued, and our city will benefit greatly from your hard work.

Respectfully submitted,

 

Robert Williams
Mayor of Marshfield