It seems much more like the holiday season with Lake Highlands football making the playoffs. My congratulations to Coach Gayden and the team for the great Friday nights.
Lake Highlands will be receiving a Christmas present this year at the Audelia branch library. Our branch is going to undergo a $3 million-plus facelift and addition starting in January. The bad news is that the facility will have to close until February 2004 for the work to be done. Due to the tight budget restraints, we have no money for a temporary facility; the Skillman, Forest Green, Lakewood or Casa View branches will have to fill in while construction is under way.
This addition is part of the 1998 bond proceeds for this branch and the reallocation of funds from another branch that is being replaced instead of renovated. I realize this will be a great inconvenience for many of you, as this branch remains the busiest in the library system, but try to be flexible, keeping in mind how great the new renovations will be.
Speaking of bond issues, on Dec. 2 the city manager will present his view of critical needs to the city council for the May 2003 ballot. At a city council retreat Nov. 8, the council was briefed on the financial impact that different size bond packages would have on taxpayers. It was not a pretty picture.
With some moderate growth in the property tax base and sales tax revenue, a program in the $200 million range might be possible without a tax increase. But the reality is, I don’t think you can vote for this upcoming bond program without triggering a property tax rate increase.
Early discussions indicate that a majority of council members seem to be heading for a $500-$600 million bond program. This would mean a tax rate increase of six to eight percent if we have zero growth in tax revenues over the next three years. Given the uncertainty of our current economic recovery, I think the council needs to be more conservative with this bond issue than has been discussed.
The reality is that next year’s budget will need $40-$60 million of new revenue in order to give the uniformed personnel their promised 5 percent raise and keep everything else equal. If that new revenue is not realized, services will have to be cut, or the tax rate will have to be raised – again.
More troubling was Mayor Laura Miller’s suggestion that if a council member does not go along with the majority of the council on the size of the bond issue, she thinks that council district should be excluded from getting anything in the bond issue. The council as a whole disagreed with this approach, but it still sets the stage for an interesting bond discussion.