Nick's Council Connection (25 March 2013)

DSCN8863.JPGCouncil Meeting Date/Time: March 25, 2013 (Committee of the Whole: 6:55pm, Regular Meeting: 7:00pm)
Council Meeting Location: City Hall (220 Clay St, Cedar Falls, IA 50613)

Committee of the Whole (6:55pm, Mayor’s Chamber)

At every council meeting (2x per month), we approve Bills and Payroll (this is one reason why we are religious about meetings - if we don't meet, we can't pay our bills or staff!!). Prior to the meeting, we sign-off and then a formal motion is made at the end of each council meeting. I normally do a quick scan of the report to seek out extraordinary entries (66 pages of fine print this week). Staff responses to my questions always offer proper insight; I've never found any 'irregularities'. Occasionally, I will monitor expenses that catch my attention. For example, workers compensation claims were high a few months back. Through inquiry, I learned more about the worker comp levels and corrective actions. Our financial matters are managed very well, especially considering the staggering complexities related to fund-based accounting, statutory and compliance issues.

-Regular Council Meeting (7:00pm, City Council Chamber)-

In Special Order of Business
E.1 relates to a public hearing for a Private Development Agreement for MetoKote Corporation. MetoKote has operated in the Industrial Park since 1994 and is seeking to add 48,000 square feet to its existing 96,000 square foot building. It is estimated that the company will add 25 new jobs. Since MetoKote operates in the TIF district, the city can offer incentives such as land and tax abatement; the developer will normally agree to a Minimum Assessment Agreement (agrees to construct a building with minimum taxable value) and occasionally job creation guarantees. The incentive package includes 1.96 acres of land (transferred to MetoKote from the city) and a 5-year tax rebate valued at 75%, 60%, 45%, 30%, and 15% respectively against the added taxable value. This is standard practice for Cedar Falls Economic Development policies in the Industrial Park. Cedar Falls is very disciplined using TIF for industrial development (versus retail or housing which are highly market-driven,  thus not needing incentives). While one could argue that MetoKote would expand without incentive, Cedar Falls and most cities would use it for this purpose - to incubate and support economic expansion. Cedar Falls stands to build additional revenues into our economic development TIF and it generates more quality jobs to boot. I support it.

I also support state-level reform. TIF has many antagonists and much of the criticism laid upon it is justified. It can cause regional piracy, state income tax payers pay for school reimbursements, and it shifts the tax burden for Black Hawk County and Hawkeye Community College to non-TIF areas. It can distort land development and normally advantages large corporations. I will offer additional thoughts and practical solutions in a future blog post.

E.3 relates to our yearly street reconstruction plan utilizing Local Option Sales Taxes (LOST). This year we will reconstruct 1.2 miles of road for approximately $2.6 million. CFU will also do some improvements for new water infrastructure. LOST has been a beneficial program for our transportation infrastructure. As a child visiting my grandparents in Cedar Falls, I can remember teeth-cracking pot holes very well as compared to my home town only 15 minutes north. We continue to make methodical progress on improving our streets!

On the Resolution Calendar...
G.2.j relates to the preliminary plat of 141 residential lots in the Prairie West addition west of Hudson Rd. and north of Prairie Winds. In the last council meeting (and leading up to it), several residents expressed concerns regarding traffic circulation and adverse development impacts. The developer has agreed to phase both plats to resolve secondary access concerns. I will also be asking about construction road easements to minimize impacts on residents in the existing Hurst Addition. In the next 5 years or so, this addition should also connect to the Greenhill Road extension.

I wanted to give a shout out to Senator Jeff Danielson's leadership on SF387 - Loans from City Reserves. This bill gives fiscally responsible cities another tool to finance projects from 'idle' cash reserves. It will save Cedar Falls substantial money (up to $400,000 per year) by avoiding public financing costs while generating market-based returns for the reserve funds (such as Sartori Trust Fund). This bill is timely and appropriate as we seek to reduce avoidable expenses so we can continue to provide services, infrastructure, and quality of life amenities our local taxpayers expect and enjoy. I also applaud Representative Walt Rogers for guiding the companion bill through the Iowa House. True non-partisan support!

As an aside, I avoid the use of "bi-partisan" support because it ignores the vast middle out there. Iowans want to find common ground on the issues that concern us most. Too often, we are witness to "bipolar" bickering when there is good legislation to be done. I'm proud to recognize Jeff and Walt for working together for common sense legislation. Now let's hope we can take it to the finish line.


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