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Commission Recommends More CIP Funds

Alternate recommendation cites need for increased funding for town maintenance, construction.

Herndon’s Planning Commission is poised to deliver its alternative proposal later this month to the Town Council for the capital improvement program (CIP) of the 2008 budget, suggesting changes in timing of certain projects and an increase of funding of approximately $500,000 more than the original staff proposal, according to town documents.

An alternative CIP recommendation is drafted every year by Planning Commission members during the budget process, but it rarely strays from the town staff budget team, according to staff and officials.

The Herndon CIP deals with funding for town infrastructure improvements, new construction of town property and purchase of heavy equipment, amongst other things. After reviewing both recommendations, Herndon’s council will hear public input on the CIP and make a decision as to how the budget will be drafted.

"The main point is that [the Planning Commission is] trying to recommend a CIP that comes up with more finances" for improvement projects, said Herndon planner Michelle O’Hare, who has been working with the Planning Commission on the proposal. "This year the Planning Commission is saying that … the town would do better by budgeting $500,000 more in funds to the CIP."

If adopted as it stands, the coming year’s budget will be more than 1 percent lower than the previous year’s total, the first time in at least 10 years, according to town data.

THE ALTERNATIVE VISION and the increase in recommended funding does not imply that the town should raise more revenue for projects but place more priority on certain projects necessary for the proper maintenance of the town, according to Planning Commission member Dave Swan. The method for finding those extra funds would not be part of the commission’s proposal, Swan said.

The Planning Commission’s draft CIP proposal as of April 11 also showed a significant increase in planned funds for future budgets, with increases ranging from $1 million to $1.5 million in years over the course of the next five fiscal year budgets. As a result, the total in their proposal for "beyond" projects — those outside of the range of the CIP’s six-year format — has been lowered from about $15 million to approximately $8 million, the proposals show.

"The way the CIP looks now, it’s basically leaving us no money to operate and meet the basic needs of the town … in this year and in the years ahead," Swan said. "We’re not saying we need to raise taxes by any means, but what we are saying is that we need to find more money for projects and maintenance than this."

As an example of a CIP budget that does not address all of the town’s needs, Swan pointed out that the third largest item on the town staff-proposed CIP is paying down the bill for improvements to south Elden Street that took place last year.

Some of the changes in the Planning Commission’s draft CIP include paying for the Herndon Police Department "sally port" addition in one year as opposed to two; more than doubling funds for roadway improvements in Herndon’s historical preservation district along Pearl Street; making available $340,000 to fund storm drainage improvements, and moving the proposed skate park construction funds from this year to the 2012 budget, according to the proposal.

THE REARRANGEMENT of projects, particularly popular ones such as the proposed skate park, is being suggested by the Planning Commission due to its priorities and the lack of total funding available this year, according to Carl Sivertsen, chairman of the Planning Commission.

"In order to do some of these projects … it’s a lot of money and like many budgets, even for individuals, you can’t always afford to do everything," Sivertsen said. "There are things the town need like more road improvements, storm water drainage, streetlights and we have to ask ourselves, what is more important for the town at this time?"

And the longer that certain construction projects go to be paid off or developed, the more that they will ultimately cost, he added.

Sivertsen noted that since Herndon had not yet found a location for the skate park that town resources should not sit unused during the location process.

SINCE THE SKATE park will be funded entirely from development proffers accrued over several years by the town for parks projects, its funding should not be moved, said acting town manager Art Anselene.

While the town staff-recommended budget may be "constrained," as per council orders for a conservative budget, it still meets the need for maintenance and new construction requirements of the town, Anselene added. Their CIP proposal focuses on laying the foundations for projects to be completed in the future through planning and engineering fees, as well as property acquisitions, he said.

"Certainly we had much larger capital improvement programs in the past and surely during that we had a vibrant economy and a booming housing market," Anselene said. "So it is less than we’re used to seeing over the course of the last five years or so, and I think that reflects rising costs and the desires of the council."

"But I still think there’s enough money in there to get some good projects started and some good planning down for the future."