Town Council members began the initial stages of brainstorming ideas and objectives for the fiscal year 2005-06 budget in a strategy session Dec. 7.
The session — held an hour before the scheduled work session — allowed town manager Stephen Owen to inform council members of work done with the budget and how council member input is needed to address impeding projects in the coming fiscal year.
"We're starting to move into a time frame that we're constructing the projects that the CIP [Capitol Improvement Program] has had on the timeline for a long time," said council member Steven Mitchell.
Because construction dates are beginning and grant deadlines are running for projects — like the Herndon Police Station construction and Sugarland Run Trail project improvements — the town will have to pay large expenses in the next year, all of which have been budgeted, explained Mitchell.
Mitchell said this is something they need to keep in mind when planning new improvements.
Some of the issues brainstormed by council included monitoring the tax increase proposed by the General Assembly that town attorney Richard Kaufman said could hurt the town based on the assembly's redistribution criteria, continuing to focus on the issue of overcrowding in homes and providing the necessary resources to eliminate the problem, the construction of the Runnymede Nature Center, emphasizing the town's commitment to the Dulles rail project and the issues of public safety and proper funds to provide neighborhood protection.
"It may be strategic to put some emphasis on that project," said council member Dennis Husch about the proposed Rail to Dulles project. "It might be good to show that Herndon is serious to making a tie there and that Herndon is as committed as Metro is to the project."
In relation to the overcrowding issue, council member Darryl Smith said he would like to see the results of the community inspectors recently hired and if any additional resources should be budgeted in the next year — as opposed to halfway through the year.
"I'd like to see a true picture of what we need and adjust the plans now so that we don't have to make changes later," said Smith, adding he thought the previous council had created a thorough two-year plan and would like to review that to see how much had been completed and what needed to be done.
As a part of the scheduled work session discussion, council members touched on the issues of developing the downtown — something directly related to the FY 2005-06 budget — more specifically the construction of a parking structure and the possibility of a cultural arts center.
Although the discussion was general regarding what steps to take, council member Carol Bruce said she wants to revisit prior council's master plans envisioned for downtown development.
"I think we need to look at the big picture again," said Bruce, adding through the years of being on council she has seen the importance of revisiting and making revisions. "In my mind that big plan is a bit fuzzy now."
Council members agreed it would be good to revisit previous council's plans to see what has been done, what is proposed and what could be modified based on more recent developments. This would also help the council brainstorm how they would like to see the FY 2005-06 budget divided between CIPs.
In the upcoming months Owen will work on the FY 2005-06 budget, presenting the planning commission and town council with a six-month review of the FY 2005-2011 CIP project status at a joint meeting Jan. 18, 2005 before the council's scheduled work session.