On March 22, the members of the Corpus Christi City Council and City Manager Ron Olson attended a day-long retreat from 10:30 a.m. to 5:50 p.m. facilitated by Toby Futrell, former city manager of Austin and current member of the Ad hoc Residential Street Committee. Before the meeting, new Council Member Michael Hunter was sworn in by the Honorable Gail Loeb before a large crowd of family, friends and colleagues. The Council’s priorities remained the same as last year: streets, water, economic development, and an additional priority, communications. Council discussed and passed unanimously a Three-Year Work Plan developed by Ron Olson. This came as a result of Councilman Magill specifically asking for a plan that shows the value of what the citizens will receive in the next three years of work. Olson said, “We do not want the urgent to get in the way of the important.” The goals of this plan are as follows:
- Help the Council work as a team, to be explicit about what they want, and to keep them focused
- Resolve residential street issue
- Execute entire street plan
- Change public perception about roads
- Make improvements to engineering department
- Bring actionable conclusion to desal
- Clearly define long-term water supply plan
- Resolve Broadway Treatment Plant issues
- Resolve sanitary sewer overflow issue and begin to execute the plan
- Resolve storm water utility issues after streets are adequately addressed
- Execute council priority and internal operational 3-year work plans
- Work on Third Level priorities as time and resources allow
- Continue to communicate the City’s message through internal and external resources
- Train a replacement for Olson
In addition to what the city manager initially listed, a Comprehensive Housing Plan was initiated to handle problems in a lack of workforce housing, new construction volume, infill/redevelopment of over 13,000 substandard lots. “In my eyes, if we get those 13,000+ vacant or substandard lots infilled or redeveloped, then we diversify the tax base and lessen the tax burden on all citizens,” said Magill.
Other quick facts:
- The Zero-Based Budget process is moving forward. Councilwoman Carolyn Vaughn, however, did not seem convinced. She is very interested in seeing substantial progress in this area. “You are saying 3 to 5 years, but what’s to stop you at year 4 from saying you need more time?” she asked of Olson. “I understand what your concern is, but there is no other city in the country that has zero-based budgeting, so we’re creating something,” replied Olson.
- Updates on industrial desalination to come up in late April
- PlanCC to come back to Council in April after the Planning Commission discusses and recommends changes on April 20, 201
- October 1, 2016, the new city website will launch. It will coexist with the existing website until December 31, so citizens can get used to the new site. The new site is completely driven by user experience and how the city can help. Currently it is organized by department and can be very confusing for citizens to use.
- The group worked on and improved the Fiscal Budget Policy documents. The City is moving forward with the Zero-Based Budget process. Councilwoman Carolyn Vaughn is anxious for this process to get moving and pressed Olson for an actual completion date to which he said he really had no answer.
- One item Magill has critiqued for several years and actually brought up three times in Council meetings was finally addressed, the unreserved fund balances in the enterprise/utility funds. There is approximately $48 million of unreserved fund balance building in the water, wastewater, and storm water departments over the last few years. Magill said, “To me, it is fiscally responsible to make sure any ‘unreserved’ fund balance has a purpose and strategy attached to it. Otherwise, we utilize the unreserved fund balance to strategically pay down debt principal, cash fund capital improvements, or in my recommendation, offset the future utility costs of residential street improvements.”
- Council established a path forward to bring back to council for Type A funding of Economic Development Sales Tax to include residential streets, which will need voter approval on Nov. 8.This last legislative session opened the door for the option to include general municipal projects like residential streets. Council will propose an ordinance before November election stating clearly what the renewal of the sales tax funding will fund. Residential Streets approx. $3.3 million, Economic Development (Job Creation) approx. $3.3 million, and continue the $500k for Affordable Housing.
- On Nov. 8, voters will also need to approve the renewal of the Crime Control Prevention District for another 10 years and of the sales and use tax at a rate of 1/8 of one percent. Currently this tax pays for 63 sworn officers and all associated equipment, five cadet trainees each year with equipment, five cadet interns, Pawn Shop detail, six replacement marked patrol unit; Juvenile Assessment Center (6.6 civilian personnel and operating costs), and Crime Prevention efforts with three civilian personnel and operating costs.
- Use of State Hotel Occupancy Tax funds got the attention of Mark Scott who said, “Now I’m paying attention. I woke up.” Note: The expenditures in this Fund shall not be used to offset expenditures for Gulf Beach maintenance currently paid for out of the local HOT Fund.
Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day. She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.