Help with City Administrator’s Friday Memo of June 18

Joel-WalinskiI’m bogged down in a work project and have not been able to review the memo to do a decent post. Here are the links – can you help out your fellow citizens by highlighting items of note in the comments?  Thank you!

The “Friday Memo,” written by Northfield City Administrator Joel Walinski, department heads, and other City employees, summarizes the staff activities for the week. The Friday memos are published and archived in PDF form at the bottom of the City Administrator’s web page.

You can find this week’s memo (PDF) here, and find upcoming City meetings on the City Calendar.

21 thoughts on “Help with City Administrator’s Friday Memo of June 18”

  1. Tracy, the biggest issue of interest to me on tonight’s Work Session agenda is #3: Streetscape Task Force Recommendations.

    The packet doesn’t mention it but I wonder if the Council will discuss ending TIF district #4 early (it’s due to expire in 2013) so that the remaining money could be used for the city’s general budget.

    Councilor Jon Denison raised this issue a month ago at his Ward 4 meeting I attended.

  2. Griff: the streetscape $$ is the biggest issue of interest to me also…
    As I understand it, the money in the Master Development Fund comes from the Master Development district, a TIF district that receives almost all of its funds from the commercial properties that must pay into it.

    On my 2010 tax bill of $16,576., $10,108.95 is the portion of the total bill listed as being paid to a TIF district.

    Whaty I do not know is if that comprises one or more TIF districts, and if so, what portion is to the Master Development district… Maybe Kathleen Mc Bride can help with that question?

    However, you will note the difference between that commercial property tax bill and your residential bill.

    Regardless of what mr. Denison might say, I think it is ludicrous , if not downright unfair,and possibly approaching ‘thievery’… to suggest that the money which originates within that special taxing district not be used for needs within that same taxing district.

    To use that money to bail out the City’s General Fund… well… it’s just not right.
    How could that possibly be justified?

    I’d like to hear a tax lawyer’s opinion on this.

  3. I’m not on the Streetscape Task Force anymore. However, I think Denison’s thinking is clear and worthy of consideration.

    The idea behind the Streetscape was to use the tax revenues from downtown businesses to better the downtown through a collective effort to improve the downtown. In the time that I was on the committee we built a $500,000 parking lot, a $250,000 bike trail, and if I recall correctly, $700,000 for streetscape improvements on 5th street.

    The most prudent approach would be to accumulate money in the district, and for the Council to withhold approval on Streetscape projects for 2010 and 2011, at a minimum. If the taxing district ends and there is still money, it can go back to the taxing authorities. If the Streetscape Committee and the Council would agree to be more prudent with the money allocated, the town would be better off keeping the district.

  4. David… As usual, I have trouble reading your comment as anything but a mixed message which leaves out some of the facts… I apologize if I am just speaking with ‘blinders’ on.

    It has been apparent that you find the majority, or possibly all, of the larger projects to be too costly. That is certainly a discussion that has been had; both sides have made extensive cases for their POV.

    But I am very glad to read that you do NOT agree with what Councilor Denison acknowledges( again in last night’s work session) as his issue, i.e. the decertification of the Downtown TIF District, now renamed Commercial District #4. (This being the brown color coding on the map provided with last night’s packet.)

    ‘Mixed messages’ are an interesting political ploy: when a councilor says the library was his “home away from home”, but then is now always against funding for that expansion moving forward … which position is the one to be listened to?
    I guess the latter, as that same councilor always says ‘things change; the times are different now…’

    1. Kiffi: Let me be clear.

      1. The Streetscape idea was an excellent idea to help the downtown.
      2. The Streetscape money has, for the most part, been wasted on projects that aren’t related to the downtown business environment.
      3. If the Streetscape committee and the City Council could exercise some discipline, it still might be worth saving the district.
      4. An alternative to Denison’s proposal would be to save the district, but not spend any of the money until at least the end of 2011.
      5. I have little confidence that this Council can show the necessary discipline to not spend this money. Parking lots, bike trails, and supplementing the City’s infrastructure projects were bad ideas even in better times.

      The primary reason to save the district is a selfish one. If the district is abandoned, then the money has to go back to the taxing authorities, including the City of Northfield. If the City of Northfield can be prudent then they can use non-Northfield tax revenues for the city’s benefit. (Of course, one can and should question whether this Council thinks financial prudence is a virtue given its apparent desire to spend millions of dollars on a Safety Center and library.)

      At the very least, the Council should discuss the alternatives with the Streetscape money, including the City’s obligation, if any, to help the County and the School make their budgets using this money.

    1. The discussion of the POLICY of decertifying a TIF district and its financial( in this case specific) ramifications, was not present in the work session discussion; only as might have been embedded in each councilor’s comments as to how they felt about this specific case of possible decertification.

      In the past , Ms McBride has explained the process to the council ( I believe most recently with reference to the Hiley-Neff development TIF). When a TIF district is decertified the proceeds are distributed back to the original recipients, i.e. NF, County and School District… hence mr. Denison’s remark about a “responsibility to our constituents, the County and the School District.”

      I wonder what the County and the School District think about being thought to be “constituents” of a NF City Councilor ?
      I had thought they were rather parallel Local Governing Units; is this why NF is sometimes accused of being ‘arrogant’ ?

  5. Because of this discussion of the Downtown TIF district, and Councilor Denison’s suggestion that it should be decertified , and the proceeds returned to “our constituents, the School District and the County” (and of course Northfield would get its share)… because of this idea and the way it is misunderstood, there is an adversarial POV developing in comments about the Downtown.

    Some people simply do not realize that the stresses on the Economics of the Downtown are just as bad for those building owners and businesses as they are for people NOT in the Commercial sector. There are those who seem to think that building and business owners have Pots of Gold in the basements of their buildings.

    Nothing could be further than the truth…

    Look at the number of empty stores plus those who have said they will close soon, or at the end of the summer.
    Commercial spaces are being rented at half what they were 8 years ago, IF they are lucky enough to find a tenant.
    Apartments are renting at discounts, few tenants are available.

    And yet the commercial taxes keep going up… remember they are at double the rate a homeowner pays…
    Waste management fees go up…
    City fees are going up, and covering lesser amounts of time (rental licenses)…
    Everyone is scrambling to hold on; this is NOT the time to sell a property…

    For all these reasons, it really bothers me to hear negative things said about the Downtown and the building owners and businesses that keep it going… often only by continually cutting their own income.

    Everyone wants the Downtown to be all things to all people; the “Heart and Core of the Community” … but let the people who work everyday to keep the Downtown functioning complain when people who don’t understand its economics threaten its meagre sources of TIF funding, and then you begin to hear the nasty comments:
    Well there’s always Target and Cub, you know!

    Yes… and I’m sure T and C are losing business also, and that their managers and stockholders are feeling somewhat distressed … but let’s face it folks: it’s just not the same impact as is felt by the local, 1 person business or building owner.

    Call your councilor, and Support YOUR Downtown by keeping its TIF district functioning until its natural expiration date, 2013 …
    Do you really think the economy will be recovered by then?

    1. Kiffi:

      It’s hard for me to support the TIF district as it currently runs. It is currently government at its worst. The money isn’t going to help the downtown; it is funding local pork barrel projects.

      1. David, this is what I hear everywhere! Not that TIF exisits, but the usage is PORK.
        Unecessary when other usages would benefit business more.

        I do not invite discourse on my own agenda..we just don’t have time here! ;-D

        Only wish to say that the current usage of TIF and EDA (got more alphabet, i mean that too) is reminiscent of a casino with a ratty interior.
        All beautiful on the outside, pretty lights and flowers and signs..
        while inside, people despair and things are rotting.

    1. Thank you Griff, I am affirmed in my opinion. And decidedly unimpressed with certain council members. Due to propriety and my own ethics, I will withhold the verbage that comes to mind regarding them and suffice it to say…

      How many more kids have to die before this council realizes those who live here and those looking at living here, will pay more attention to that and the lack of anything for their growing children to do et al, than “enhancements” of tifling nature?
      How many deaths are enough? 1,2,3, I can think of 5 right of the top of my head, 6,7,8, 20,100?
      How many damaged lives is this council and this city, are we willing to be partly responsible for by neglect in favor of “I feel pretty, oh so pretty”?

    1. John: The Streetscape Committee is making recommendations without any serious regard to money, so your idea isn’t so far-fetched.

      Listen to Pokorney at the end of the video (about 2:50). The main reason to keep the TIF district is so that Northfield can spend the County and School’s tax revenues. (Of course, everyone’s taxes will have to be raised to cover this loss of revenue.) But, the list of projects needs serious modification. Heck, one of the considerations is to spend $760,000 to buy a house, tear it down, and build a parking lot.

      1. David,

        Yes, that house purchase proposal is a concerning proposal given our current budget disaster.

        On the subject of spending:

        If I understand Kathleen McBride’s comments here ( http://northfieldnews.com/news.php?viewStory=53282 ) correctly, then the downtown TIF district has already been committed to spend more money than it has thus far taken in.

      2. Patrick:

        I would assume that Ms. McBride understands the financing. A further explanation from her may be in order.

        I am fairly certain that the Water Street parking lot/5th Street project relied upon Streetscape monies. The whole project may have been financed using bonds but is having the payments come partially from the Streetscape monies as the payments come due. So, the $1.3 or $1.5 million fund balance may be misleading.

        Of course, that raises the issue of whether the Streetscape is recommending spending monies that it doesn’t have.

      3. David,
        Yes, I trust Ms. McBride’s understanding of the numbers. I just don’t like the situation, and I don’t get a sense that most members of the Council (Mr. Denison excepted, perhaps there are others) understand the gravity of the situation, and of the cuts – and deferment of nonessential capital projects – that we unfortunately need to make at this present time in order to keep our finances sound.

      4. Patrick: I think Pokorney gets it also. I heard that he voted against the Safety Center project because there isn’t money to pay for any capital improvements even if they are badly needed.

      5. Yes, that is my impression of Jim, as well, and it’s a shame that he is stepping down.

  6. Jim Pokorney is the only councilor that keeps pushing at the budget issue as a big complete picture instead of a one project picture, or an LGA picture, and has actually sat down and punched numbers that do just that: Look at the ENTIRE picture.

    It may be ‘polite’ for ms. Pownell to suggest such a minimal cut (i.e.percent of councilor salaries0 but that suggestion alone displays a lack of reality in the enormity of the total cuts that must be made.

    I do not get the sense that although mr. Denison constantly speaks to the gravity, he has any real sense or understanding of the larger budget picture as he has not shown this in either discussion at the council, or project votes…. and indeed, ms. Pownell had the temerity to ask Councilor Pokorney why they should even consider his version of the numbers when they had not been “vetted”! (Translation: you’re just a councilor; we have a finance director) [sorry if you find my translation incorrect].

    Some minds close to anything but a staff presentation; does this mean some represent the staff instead of the citizens?

    Councilor Pokorney is very deserving of praise for the dogged way in which he has tried to make his fellow councilors look at a comprehensive budget picture, even after ‘dismissals’ like that stated above. He has spoken philosophically to begin with, and then fleshed out his premise with rounded numbers ; he should be listened to.

    Unfortunately, it paints a picture that some councilors, although they claim fiscal responsibility, do not care to listen to.

    And so the ’emperor’s new clothes’ continue to be worn, in all their false splendor.

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