Cash reserves increase $3.1 million in 2019 and city removes most dilapidated houses since 2009 among topics of Decatur City Council meeting on Tuesday, January 21 at 5:30 PM
Tuesday’s city council meeting will include a discussion of end-of-the-year department reports, adding a new zoning classification to the Zoning Ordinance, and approving an agreement with the Macon County Soil and Water Conservation District. Below are more details about some of these agenda items.
2019 ENDS WITH $3.1 MILLION INCREASE IN CASH RESERVES – The city’s general fund ended 2019 with a balance of $8,340,170 compared to $5,195,823 in 2018 ($3.14 million increase). Revenue was 1.6% greater than projected and expenses were 2.4% less than projected in 2019. A balance of $8.3 million in the general fund provides a cash reserve of approximately 45 days. For the majority of time I have served on the council, the city stated that best practice is for a cash reserve of 45-60 days.
Much of the decrease in 2019 expenses is attributable to not hiring employees to budgeted positions. Full-time staffing was budgeted at 451 and ended at 433 (4% lower). The number of sworn police officers decreased by 13 (9%) in 2019. I continue to be concerned about decreasing the number of police officers in 2020 at a time when the number of calls for service has increased (as it did by 2% in 2019).
It is a considerable achievement for the city to meet the best practice of 45 days. In my view, now that we have reached this milestone, future surpluses should be reinvested into the city’s number one priority: neighborhood revitalization.
CITY DEMOLISHES 60 PROPERTIES IN 2019 – The city demolished more dilapidated houses in 2019 (60) than any other year since 2009 when 103 properties were demolished. Demolition of run-down properties is a key first step to removing blight which is found in many of our neighborhoods.
With that said, my best estimate for the number of houses that the city committed to demolishing in 2019 was 116 (52% of the commitment). Furthermore, it is unclear that the city’s neighborhood revitalization efforts are keeping pace with the rate of decline that many neighborhoods in the city are experiencing. In 2019, the number of houses on the demolition list increased from 137 to 165 (20%), the city secured by boarding up 155 properties, declared 268 properties unfit for human habitation, and issued over 1,000 nuisance violations at properties.
A NEW ZONING CLASSIFICATION TO BE DISCUSSED – The city council will consider creating a new zoning classification called “Special Planned Development District.” This zoning classification will be for areas greater than 10 acres that can accommodate large-scale, multi-phased projects such as healthcare and educational campuses. This should allow for more efficient and flexible development of large-scale projects.
CONTINUED FUNDING FOR THE MACON COUNTY SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT (MCSWCD) TO BE DISCUSSED - The MCSWCD is an important partner in reducing the amount of sediment, nitrates, and other pollutants that enter Lake Decatur, and since 1988, the city has funded the MCSWCD. Funding of $154,508 (2% increase over 2019) will be used by the MCSWCD to provide technical assistance for watershed management, present at least 12 watershed conservation public education programs, and implement watershed conservation cost share projects in the amount of $25,000 annually. City funding enhances the probability the MCSWCD will receive other funding. For example, in 2019, the District was approved for and/or awarded $348,550 in federal and state grants associated with water quality enhancements in the Lake Decatur watershed.
CITIZENS ARE ENCOURAGED TO ATTEND THE MEETING AND EXPRESS THEIR VIEWS - Meetings take place at the City Council Chamber located on the third floor of the Decatur Civic Center (1 Gary K. Anderson Place). Free parking is available in the lot immediately south of the entrance. Citizens are encouraged to attend, and 3 minutes per citizen is allotted for public comment near the beginning of each meeting. An agenda to each city council meeting can be found at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council-meetings/