Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Capital Budget - Monona City Council, January 19, 2010

The Monona City Council meets on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 with approval of the 2010-2011 capital investment budget on the slate. The city will issue bonds for the two-year program once the budget is finalized. (Municipalities issue bonds to raise capital and then pay interest and ultimately the principal to the bondholders.)

Note: If there are glaring errors in this post, it's because it took so long to write I decide to go watch football rather than proof it!

(The full packet can be found here: Jan. 19, 2010 Packet)

Here is the capital budget as proposed by the mayor: 2010 Captial Budget

Here are the proposed amendments: Capital Budget Amendments.There are 15 proposed amendments to the 2010 capital investment program and 14 proposed for 2011.

If all of the amendments passed, the net effect would be to reduce spending (and thus bonding) from $4,652,200 to $4,220,036 in general obligation (GO) bonds and from $1,615,000 to $1,165,000 in water bonds. The net reductions would be $432,164 in GO bonds and $450,000 in water bonds.

A general comment: Contrary to some scuttlebutt and loose talk, the city of Monona is in excellent financial condition. In 2003, the city's "rainy day fund" was a risky 7% of the budget. Mayor Kahl and the council established a policy to keep 15-20% on hand. We are currently at about 17%.

The bond market noticed. Standard and Poors recently upgraded the city of Monona to AA bond rating, an excellent indicator of financial health and unusual for a city our size. According the S&P web site: " ‘AA’—Very strong capacity to meet financial commitments." Aside from getting better interest rates, the city also enjoys reduced borrowing costs as a result.

The specific amendments:

With the support of Chief Ostrenga, I am sponsoring two paired amendments to reduce net spending by $121,418 for new police radios (or at least delay to 2012 or beyond). The delay is warranted given the uncertainty of the proposed DaneCom system.

I also proposed several other amendments:

  • a budget neutral split of funds for Woodland Park restoration into equal $7500 amounts in each year rather than all in the second year.

  • a budget neutral amendment to advance Monona Drive Phase 3 engineering funding to 2010 from 2011 in order to ensure that Phase 3 Construction occurs in 2013. Past experience shows that waiting until 2011 to begin engineering will probably delay the project 2014.  

  • a $50,000 budget reduction by eliminating funding for a new salt brine setup. The city recently acquired a new truck with the salt brine equipment. Once the city has more experience with this new equipment, then it could be evaluated for inclusion in the next borrowing (2012-2013).

  • a $50,000 budget reduction by eliminating funding for paving new driveway at Wells 2 and 3. Not a bad project, but we have lived with these conditions for many years. (Water bonds)

 Other amendments:

Alderman Kugle & Wiswell propose:

  • a $500,000 budget reduction by pushing back the Well No. 2 Reservoir Expansion project to after 2010/2011. (Water bonds)

  • a $3500 budget reduction to the 2010-2011 ROW tree replacement funds.

  • a $1500 budget reduction to the 2010-2011 sidewalk improvement program.
  • a $49,016 budget reduction to the 2010 Street and Utility Reconstrucction by  (5% of the proposed $980,320 budget).
  • a $20,000 budget reduction by eliminating purchase of a mower in 2011.
  • a $16,500 budget reduction to the 2011 street repair and maintenance program.

Alderman Kugle & Busse propose:

  • a $80,000 budget reduction to the 2010-2011 facilities rehabilitation funds. 
Alderman Busse & Veserat propose:

  • a $10,000 budget reduction to the 2010-2011 IT equipment replacement and upgrade budget. 

Alderman Wiswell, Kugle and Veserat propose:

  • To eliminate all funding ($25,000) for "unattended in-ground speed inhibitors"; i.e. traffic calming devices.

Alderman Kugle & Thomas propose to eliminate $50,000 funding for Maywood Park Trail in 2011.

Alderman Busse & Veserat propose to reduce funding for squad cars by $57,000 in 2011. The police department would buy 2 rather than 4 vehicles in the next two years.

Alderman Busse & Veserat also propose to reduce funding for Community Center upper level remodel by $10,000.

Alderman Kugle proposes to increase funding for inter-connect with the City of Madison water supply system from $100,000 to $200,000 to cover a proposed connection at South Towne.

Alderman Wiswell proposes to eliminate $1,500 for police office furniture, add $8,000 for 4 defibrillators. One for each building: City Hall, Library, Community Center, Public Works Garage.

Alderman Wiswell also proposes to add $55,000 for the planning/Remodel of the fire department in 2010 and 2011.

A general comment: City staff provides much improved budget estimates over prior years. The numbers are real estimates, not guesses. Thus, my usual preference is to either approve or disapprove a project rather than approve the project and then underfund it. It seems to me that when we arbitrarily cut a set percentage from a project, we are either kidding ourselves about the real cost of the projects or we are planning to do the project poorly.


Capital borrowing policies

Finally, I proposed an amendment to the policies that guide capital borrowing. See page 5 of the paper copy of the capital plan (not available online).

Under Paragraph D, “The decision to borrow funds should take into consideration the following factors:”

The current policy includes economic development, cost of the project, city financial position, and municipal bond market conditions. That's fine as far as it goes, but my amendment would add the following:

"5. Equipment and Facilities – Borrowing should provide resources to acquire adequate equipment and facilities to provide city services and facilities.

6. Long-term Operating Efficiency – Consideration should be given to projects that promote energy conservation and efficiency and whose long-term benefits outweigh the initial cost.

7. Environmental Impacts – Consideration should be given to whether projects will reduce or increase negative impacts to the natural environment. Particular attention should be paid to whether the project will improve or harm the water quality of Lake Monona, the Yahara River, and groundwater."

Alderman Wiswell also offered some policy amendments at page 48.


  1. The Sunny Schuburt conserative in me wants to ask: what are you building that trail out of concrete or something even more expensive?

  2. Thank you, Doug, for the amendment to the policies that guide capital borrowing. We must always keep the big picture in mind and these help to do so.

  3. A "Sunny Schubert conservative"?

    How is that different from a regular conservative?

    Trail cost. Probably asphalt. Stand-alone concrete sidewalks cost $70/lineal foot so $50K would get you 715'. Asphalt is cheaper, but the path would be wider. The path would extend from Winnequah Road up to the Maywood School sidewalk.

    But my guess is that it's not going to happen anyway.

  4. You never heard of a Sunny Scuber conserative?

    me neither?

    In any case, if the trail goes through the small stand of trees. I am fairly certian there is some endaraged plants in there...well I know there is. Really do not know how that is handled-just hate to seem them damaged.

    It is up to you about posting this-just do not want a bunch a people to go down there and tramp around diggin up things trail or no trail.


  5. The west side of the park has so many pot hole that it is nearly impossible to walk accross. Why not use the 5oK to fill in the pot holes first.

    If the path is to walk from Winnequah Rd. to Maywood, then why is the southern bridge so far south? Move it to 100 ft north of the island.

    Get rid of the bridge by the shelter house. Even if the committee is going to give the city two brdiges, they have a history of giving but not maintaining their gifts. Look at the Dream park for example.

  6. Hi Doug,

    Thanks for the update. Concerned about the amendment to eliminate funding for pedestrian safety in the City. Looks like it is called "elimination of unattended inground speed inhibitors" - although I wasn't aware that Public Safety had actually forwarded a proposal as to how to deal with our road safety issues. As has been discussed and analyzed at Public Safety, it is apparent that there is a speeding problem on Winnequah Road, and possibly/probably other feeder streets in the City. This has been confirmed and verified by Police Department data gathering. The problem has not yet been addressed, and obviously, any addressing of the problem will require funding.

    It seems to me that the City has worked quite diligently over the past five years, maybe more, to attract and retain young families. Off the top of my head, I can name at least four City Committees that have had initiatives specifically related to this endeavor. It is also apparent that the School District is faced with grave deficit issues for next year and several years into the future, leading me to believe that eventually, bus routes will end up on the chopping block.

    Why would we cut funding for pedestrian safety, acknowledging all of the above? It seems to me that if we are going to preach family attraction and retention, we certainly should be willing to put our money where our mouths have been.

    What are your thoughts on this? What do all of the folks running for election and/or reelection think about this situation/proposal. The increasing number of young families in our community are paying attention and are looking for answers.

    Thank you!

    Cari Fuss

  7. "The west side of the park has so many pot hole that it is nearly impossible to walk across. Why not use the 5oK to fill in the pot holes first."

    OK, the amendment addresses the proposed Maywood Park Trail, not the Winnequah Park Trail. The Winn. trail is in the 2012 budget and is not up for a vote.

    Re: the bridges and maintenance. The Optimists donated maintenance money to the city for 10 years (I think). That was the deal and it ran out a couple years ago. There is money in the 2010-2011 budget for Dream Park work.

  8. "Thanks for the update. Concerned about the amendment to eliminate funding for pedestrian safety in the City. Looks like it is called "elimination of unattended inground speed inhibitors".

    I would not say the amendment would be quite that sweeping (you could still do pavement marking, signing, speed enforcement), but it does appear that the intent is to prevent any funding for physical traffic calming measures. That is unfortunate; it takes away one of the major tools used in many cities to control excessive speeds.

  9. For better or worse, there is little the school district can do to save on bus routes in Monona. The current walk zones are already limited in all directions by hazardous designations on several streets including Winnequah, Dean and Owen. The district is required to provide transportation for students living across these streets, regardless of the budget.