Saturday, June 27, 2015

FY16 Budget

The council has a number of key responsibilities – none more important than the town’s budget. Nor does any one responsibility require more focus, time and effort than the annual budget process. #gladitsover

We completed that process Thursday evening when the council unanimously approved Cary’s FY16 budget. The budget totals $295 million - $218 million for operations and $77 million for capital.

Operations is exactly what it says – the day to day operations of the town’s functions and departments to include police, fire, administration, public works etc…

Capital is the brick and mortar part – the police and fire stations themselves, community centers, water treatment plants, infrastructure etc…

The operations budget is roughly a 4% increase over last year’s budget – mainly due to the addition of 25 new town employees to include an animal control officer, police officer, three new firefighters, customer service representatives and a position to administer Cary’s new open-data program. #lorisbaby This will increase the number of Cary town employees to 1255 – or 8.1 employees per 1000 residents; one of the lowest employee to citizen ratios in the state and lower than last year’s ratio of 8.2. The town of Cary continues to do more with less. #carystaffisawesome

The capital budget is roughly $25 million higher than FY15 yet $25 million lower than FY14 – sounds odd I know, but given the size and scope of capital projects, such variation really isn’t out of the ordinary. A seven mile long water pipeline (to increase water treatment capacity and reliability) in this year’s budget is $19 million alone. We didn’t have to build/fund that last year. #thatsoneexpensivepipe

This was our second year using the new priority-based budgeting process. I talked about that change in process in my blog post about last year’s budget so I won’t repeat it again, but if you aren’t familiar with it and would like to learn more, please click here.

I will say however, that I prefer this method over the previous as it better removes politics from the process. Priorities are ranked by staff based on factual data and need – not politics. #politiciansruinstuff

The first draft of the budget presented to council recommended a three cent tax increase – two cents to cover the voter approved bond projects and an additional cent to cover a projected loss of $1.5 million in revenue as a result of the North Carolina General Assembly’s elimination of the business privilege license tax. #thanksformakinguswholeguys

However, after updated revenue and spending projections – not to mention a lot of calculating and recalculating by the fine folks in Cary’s budget office - it was determined that the third cent increase was no longer necessary.

To give an idea of just how hard Cary staff worked to squeeze every penny possible, after reevaluating interest rates and current rates of return, they found an extra $340.00 in Cary’s fleet fund investment earnings. Seriously, in a $295 million budget, they worked to find 340 bucks. #Karlthebudgetslayer

Staff also identified an additional $57,000 in beer and wine tax revenue. #staythirstymyfriends

Other notable items in this year’s budget include:

·         A new fire pumper truck
·         $800,000 in sidewalk and pedestrian facility improvements
·         Kilmayne water storage tank (water tower)
·         ADA and access improvements to Sertoma Amphitheater
·         Resurfacing of 23 miles of town streets
·         Remove the stupid medians and install a traffic signal at Morrisville Parkway + Carpenter Upchurch intersection
·         Support for the town-wide Google and AT&T gigabit fiber installations
·         Increases transportation development fees paid by developers by 10%

Not surprisingly there just isn’t enough money to do everything the town would like to do. To add anything into the budget means something has to come out. Its really no different than how you prioritize and balance your own budgets. Do you get the new roof or paint the house instead? Do you buy a new car or keep the old one going another year? #Iknowagoodmechanic

That 800 grand in sidewalk improvements above was originally projected at $1.6 million. But to help eliminate that extra cent tax increase and make the desired improvements at Morrisville Parkway and Carpenter Upchurch, something had to give. That’s but one example of the tradeoffs we made.

I can’t thank the folks in Cary’s budget office, our department directors and Town Manager, Ben Shivar enough for all their efforts. This was, in my opinion, one of our more difficult years given the continuing challenges with the economy and changes in state law – not to mention we had already cut quite a bit in previous years to cope with the recession.

Special thanks also to the many citizens who provided input during the budget process – it was very helpful as we worked to better identify what was most important to the community. #ilovecary

Saturday, June 20, 2015

He's Ben Great for Cary

This council works very hard to ensure transparency in our deliberations and decisions because you, the citizens, deserve to know what it is we are working on and how we vote – we do work for you after all.

Once in a while however, we have to hold a closed-session meeting to discuss the occasional personnel matter, lawsuit, or economic development initiative that must remain confidential for legal reasons until it can be made public.

Economic development initiatives and unfortunately the occasional lawsuit are fairly common closed-session topics for city councils. Personnel matters not so much as the council is only responsible for the hiring and firing of three town staff members – the town manager, town clerk and town attorney. The town manager and department directors are responsible for the other 1220 +or- town employees.

The last time the council was informed that we would be holding a closed-session to discuss a personnel matter was when we learned that Cary Town Clerk, Sue Rowland was retiring. Ya, that stunk.

Well, this past Tuesday shortly before our budget worksession, the council was informed once again that we would be holding a closed-session meeting to discuss a personnel matter. Uh-oh….

As the council walked to the closed session room, I kept looking over my shoulder to see who would be joining us.

The only staff member following us was Cary Town Manager, Ben Shivar.

I knew what was coming.

As you have probably heard by now, Cary Town Manager Ben Shivar informed us that he had made the decision to retire at the end of September.

Ben has worked in local government for over 39 years – 19 with the Town of Cary as Assistant Manager and Town Manager. We hired Ben as Town manager in 2009 after the retirement of former Town Manager, Bill Coleman.

I believe this to be one of – if not the - best decisions we ever made.

Ben is a leader – not a boss. Anyone can be a boss. Not everyone has what it takes to be an great leader. Bosses bark orders and expect them to be followed. A leader sets an example for their employees to follow. They inspire and motivate their employees to do better not just for the organization, but also for themselves. Leaders understand there is no “I” in team.

Entrepreneur, Jim Rohn once said, “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.”

He must have known Ben Shivar.

As a member of the council I have had the pleasure – or not – of interacting with a number of other city managers and council members. I have yet to meet or hear of another manager held in such high regard by their community, staff and council as Ben.

Cary is a better place because of Ben’s leadership.

While I truly hate to see Ben leave, I wish him the very best in retirement - although I am sure that after 39 years Laura has a pretty long “honey-do list” by now ;-) Be careful what you wish for I always say ;-)

The council will make a decision soon about a recruitment and selection process for a new town manager. I would imagine it would be similar to the process we used in 2009.

Congratulations and Thank You, Ben. You have very big shoes to fill.

We'll Miss You Ben!