Mission City Council candidates on the issues: Are the city’s finances in the right mix?

mission-city-hall-v1LToday we complete the responses of the candidates for Mission City Council to the questionnaire we developed based on reader input. Here is our third and final question:

Do the city’s current mix of revenue sources and the amounts generated from each seem appropriate? What about allocations? What financial steps should be council be exploring moving forward?

Ward 1

Steven Lucas

LucasMission’s current mix of revenue sources and the amounts generated from each seem appropriate from my perspective. I believe Mission has successfully diversified the General Fund revenue system, providing security to accommodate short term fluctuations in any one revenue source. Our City has focused efforts to decrease reliance on property taxes. I believe this is sound, equitable governance, because as a proportion of available expenditure the property tax burden falls more heavily on households with lower incomes.

Our property taxes are not the main source of revenue by design. Property tax rates are expressed as a mil levy. The transportation utility fee (TUF) allowed Mission to lower an already low mil rate compared to neighboring municipalities. Mil rate is the amount of tax payable per dollar of the assessed value of a property. The TUF is used for maintenance and repair of public streets, bicycle lanes and sidewalks in our city. Without this funding source, we would likely see a 60% increase in Mission’s residential property taxes based on required additional mills to replace lost revenue, leading to a greater expense for residents than the TUF requires.

Regarding allocations, Mission’s largest expenditure was for personnel services, represent 63% of the total general fund budget. I believe this is an important and effective allocation, because quality employee compensation and benefits lead to quality services. Investment in capital expenditures leads to community amenities that also create a high quality of life for our community. As evidenced by our new swimming pool currently under construction, Mission has demonstrated a commitment to maintain and replace equipment and facilities as needed.

The City Council needs to be good stewards of taxpayer money and remain open to alternative options. Along with innovative approaches to revenue generation, we must be mindful of expenditures demonstrating responsibility and accountability.

Jay Meyer

MeyerDespite printing out a 2014 Budget Fund Overview from the city’s website, I do not have sufficient detailed information regarding specifics to appropriately answer this question. While revenues and expenditures are listed, the question’s specific response cannot be properly provided. That said, the budget is balanced, but I would suggest taking a closer look at all city government departments to be certain that appropriate personal are in place. A flow chart could be created depicting responsibilities at large to review if the city is overstaffed, or understaffed, and act accordingly.

It is the council’s duty and responsibility to vote on the budget presented to them. It is crucial that the council allocate resources, set priorities, establish goals, and provide incentives for employees. I also believe that proper execution is a priority; getting things done, being decisive, and delivering on commitments will help the city grow with new residents and new businesses.

Ward 2

Arcie Rothrock

RothrockI cannot speak to the appropriateness of the amounts generated from each of the city’s revenue sources. I can however, share the figures from the report, and take in the feedback from those who care to share their own concerns. My focus isn’t to judge or scrutinize anything or anyone. My focuses are the facts, keeping the citizens informed, listening to my constituents, and serving their best interests.

I’m not asking to be your hero. I’m asking to be your voice.

Will Vandenberg

VandenbergPresently, the Citys revenue stream is adequate for the day to day operations of city services (Police, Public Works, Trash Collection, Parks and Rec) as well as SOME infrastructure improvements.  Unfortunately, the road and stormwater improvements that need to be done in the future are very expensive.  We have been able to tap into the countys CARS program for some road funding as well as some other sources for stormwater improvements.

I have always looked at spending the citys money as if it were my own.  That is the part of the Eagle Scout in me (Thrifty).  I also have no desire to raise taxes and fees on the citizens and businesses.  I would like to get out of a lot of the debt the city has so we could actually get some of the taxes and fees lowered.

Ward 3

Debbie Kring (unopposed)

KringThe mix of revenue sources is something I addressed in the second question posed to candidates, and something I truly believe in. I believe that revenue diversity is paramount as we move forward in maintaining our city infrastructure. I think the city has a really solid handle on looking at a variety of funding sources to meet our goals, however, I think we can do more.

Using the Johnson County SMAC and CARS monies has served us well in our infrastructure improvements on Johnson Drive and Martway, and based on my conversation with county officials, those funding sources will continue to be available in 2014 and 2015. We need to be ready with our projects and be first in seeking funding, so that the source will remain an option for us.

Using Federal monies (ARRA and TIGER) has truly assisted the city in rebuilding roads and thoroughfares. Both of these funding vehicles were year-specific and project-specific, so I’m not certain that they will be available in the coming years. However, there are other federal grants through EPA, HUD, and DOT (to name a few) that offer yearly grants based on municipal projects. We need to be postured in applying for these grants in a timely fashion, as they apply to Mission projects. Another grant opportunity that I am hopeful could be available soon is the Energy Efficiency Block Grant, funded by EPA. As a residing member of the Energy, Environment, & Natural Resources Steering Committee under the umbrella of the National League of Cities, I asked in the recent legislative session that this bill be reintroduced as a priority for 2015. It was accepted as an issue and will be shared with Congress this year.

I look forward to supporting the city in its quest for diversified revenue sources.

Ward 4

Suzie Gibbs

GibbsThe city’s current revenue sources and amounts generated from them, are good. If you are looking for specifics here – as in the Gateway, this is too complicated for a 300-word answer. Overall we have a lot of new building permits being issued, new construction being done and new businesses wanting to come to Mission – which will all generate revenue. We sometimes have to spend money to make money and while I am definitely not in favor of raising fees, I am in favor of maintaining our property values while not raising our mil levy. We should always be exploring new avenues for revenue. Mission’s staff is great at looking into grants – in so far as going to Washington to lobby our officials for money, to applying for matching funds through our state and county and I am certain they will continue to do so. Our financial picture for the future has been carefully projected by our Financial Consultant and the City of Mission is in excellent shape.

Bill Nichols

NicholsLet’s deal with allocations first: I for one have no intention of further criticizing the city for its choices made in the past; it is the future that needs new eyes, eyes that are not trying to justify past “allocations”.

As for the “mix of revenue sources” There’s the property tax, alcohol tax, police fines, sales tax and about 20 others. Once again without being there and looking at expenditures and where the dollars came from, it is way too difficult to say I could have done better.

Your elected representatives and Mayor are just part time employees; Mission has a staff of dedicated professionals that should be listened to and not ignored, I guarantee I will listen.

Let’s talk about taxes and fees.

We all know about the Transportation Utility Fee (Driveway Tax) but there is at least one other that trumps the Driveway Tax.

The city can raise your property tax and fees without our approval and have done so, the city can not add a sales tax without your approval and you agreed to do just that: 3/8 cent for Parks & Recreation and ¼ cent again for the debt service on streets.

And then there’s the Storm Water Utility. This came about in 2005 at $4.00 until 2007 when it went up to $6.00 then in 2011 we got to pay $19.00 and it went from a tax deductible 1 mil property tax to a fee of $19.00 that lasted 2 years, now we’re paying $23.00, that’s $23.00 per month again without our consent.

If elected you will know in advance of all new fees & taxes plus the reduction or elimination of a tax or fee. (Ask your tax consultant about fees being deductible.)

You do have a choice Tuesday.

If you missed the responses to the first two questions, you can find them here:

Question 1: Engaging citizens in government
Question 2: Challenges facing the wards