Aiken City Council will meet 7 pm Monday June 12, to consider a FY 2018 budget that bolsters the City’s efforts to protect the health, lives, property and safety of Aiken citizens through large investments in law enforcement and infrastructure. Despite the emphasis on these priorities, spending in the operations portion of the budget remains flat and the budget requires no property tax millage increase.
Below is the transmittal letter prepared by City Manager John Klimm summarizing the spending plan:
To the Honorable Mayor Rick Osbon, Members of the Aiken City Council, and the Citizens of Aiken:
I hereby submit to you our Fiscal Year 2018 Annual Budget for your review. This is a budget which largely maintains operational expenses while recognizing that the health and safety of our citizens is the first and foremost responsibility of local government. To that end, the budget’s chief priorities focus on the Department of Public Safety and its mission to protect and serve the people of Aiken along with a long overdue focus on upgrading aging water, sewer and storm water systems.
Following an intensive operational audit review of the Department of Public Safety, Chief Charles Barranco and I have crafted a multi-pronged plan to foster continual improvement and innovation in law enforcement. The plan’s focus is on implementing a new data-based management system which promotes accountability and gives our officers the tools needed to succeed. Over the years DPS has had difficulty in retaining officers despite the expense and time involved in completing their training. Efforts to create a comprehensive compensation structure that rewards longevity and other service metrics in a concrete way will be implemented across our organization, but will start first with Public Safety. This budget package also designates funds to address the failure of the current DPS headquarters to meet basic acceptable standards.
Over the last year, we have seen much progress in the area of infrastructure repair, under the able leadership of George Grinton, by first instituting an infrastructure assessment methodology and, for the first time, implementing a long-range plan to begin to address the water, sewer and storm water needs of our City. This Budget includes funding for Phase One of our Infrastructure rehabilitation.
Along with these life-safety issues, this budget also makes quality of life issues like economic development, job creation and keeping Aiken attractive and enjoyable for residents and visitors alike a top objective. To more closely support those vital functions, I have reorganized City staff by moving the similar functions of economic development, marketing/communications and tourism into a newly created division under the supervision of the City Manager. The Community Development and Tourism Division will actively market our City and continue efforts to strengthen the climate for existing businesses while making efforts to attract new enterprises.
Over the past year, we have focused on major priorities set by our elected leadership clearly articulating their desire to see budget reform. Our City Council made it abundantly clear they wanted a new and better budget, away from a classic incremental budget with little change since the 1950’s, to one that is clearer and more transparent and understandable.
Thanks to the dedication of our management staff, we saw significant success. Not only did our Finance Team, ably headed by Finance Director Kim Abney, successfully change the format of our budget to a much more transparent and understandable one, but they did so achieving national recognition by the Government Finance Officers Association for our work.
We present to you our FY 2018 operating budget with no increase in our tax millage rate and a long-range capital plan funding major infrastructure repair.
FY 2018- Building on the Foundation of Reform and Change
The Budget presented to you today includes the following initiatives:
Public Safety: This proposal includes the addition of two Public Safety officers and two temporary positions to anticipate and account for inevitable turnover/retirements in the force. Based on the results of the DPS operational audit review, the plan also calls for the addition of a dispatcher to bring overnight staffing from one to two. Retaining experienced officers will be accomplished with the creation of a comprehensive compensation structure that rewards longevity. Such a system will be implemented across our organization, but will start first with Public Safety and is funded in this budget. This budget package also designates funds to address the failure of the current DPS headquarters to meet basic acceptable standards.
Infrastructure: Our new infrastructure assessment methodology has, for the first time, allowed us to implement a long-range plan that begins to address the water, sewer and storm water needs of our City. This Budget includes funding for Phase One of our Infrastructure rehabilitation that targets the Downtown area where the oldest systems and most critical needs are found.
Pension Reform: Many businesses and government organizations have moved away from defined-benefit pension plans in recent years due to the expense involved in maintaining and fully capitalizing such retirement systems. The budget recommendation is to continue the current defined-benefit plan for current employees and move new employees to a defined-contribution plan that promises a great deal of savings over time.
Reorganization of Economic Development Efforts: City staff will be reorganized, moving the similar functions of economic development, marketing/communications and tourism into a newly created division under the supervision of the City Manager. The Community Development and Tourism Division will actively market our City and continue efforts to strengthen the climate for existing businesses while making efforts to attract new enterprises.
Purchasing Division: Our Finance Department has established a Procurement Program to coordinate City purchasing and acquisition of services to ensure the most efficient use of resources and employed a purchasing officer to oversee the process.
Trees Program: Thanks to a generous contribution from Mr. Rob Johnston, we will make great strides in protecting Aiken’s trees through a survey of City’s treasured canopy with the goal of creating a management plan based on the number, species and condition of the existing arboretum.
Aiken Mall Redevelopment: The Aiken Mall project is a key commercial development that will impact economic conditions in this community for many years to come. The City will continue negotiations to create an effective public-private partnership that best moves this important project forward in the interest of the citizens of Aiken.
Downtown Revitalization: The City successfully recruited a development team to revitalize the Downtown area through a comprehensive vision to infuse new retail and residential space into the City core while consolidating City services into a single upgraded facility. Negotiations will continue with efforts to protect existing tenants and create value for the people of Aiken as the highest priorities.
As we look forward to the priorities of FY 2018, it is an appropriate time to look back at the achievements of of the last year. FY 2017 saw many major accomplishments thanks to our dedicated staff. Some of our major accomplishments over the past year included:
•Operational Audits were completed for the Department of Public Safety and former Department of Public Services operations;
•City Staff has completed a comprehensive evaluation of the Department of Public Safety Headquarters. We know that our present DPS Headquarters is woefully out of date and in need of rehabilitation;
•City staff has prepared a recommendation for City Council to consolidate City Hall functions into one building instead of the present two buildings that are inefficient and costly to maintain;
•We have consolidated the former Department of Public Services and Engineering and Utilities Department into a Department of Public Works with a new emphasis on Infrastructure and Roads maintenance and repair;
•The City has implemented the Innovyse Software Program, an assessment software package use to evaluate our infrastructure;
• City staff has proposed a new approach in the way we address City infrastructure challenges from one marked by neglect to one focused on problem identification and funding solutions for the first time in decades;
• We reviewed the City’s Pension system which is a costly item in our budget. We have prepared a recommendation for Council consideration;
•The City was recognized by the GFOA and received the Award for Excellence in Financial Reporting;
•Our Finance Department has established a Procurement Program to coordinate City purchasing and acquisition of services to ensure the most efficient use of resources;
•Our City staff and Planning Commission drafted a new Comprehensive Land Use and Transportation Plan and the Council is presently reviewing the Plan;
•The Downtown Alley renovations are complete and use has skyrocketed;
•The City has moved forward with the Northside Recreation Park and construction will soon begin;
•The City is moving forward with the construction of the new Eustis Park Community Center;
•The Citizen’s Park Walking Trail System, a CPST Project, was completed;
•The City is completing negotiations with the owners of the Aiken Mall for a major redevelopment of that key commercial property;
•The City successfully recruited a development team to revitalize the Downtown area through a comprehensive vision to infuse new retail and residential space into the City core while consolidating City services into a single upgraded facility;
•The City was awarded CALEA certification though our Department of Public Safety for the Advanced Accredited Law Enforcement Agency of Excellence;
•The City created a Citizens Review Board to review complaints filed with the Department of Public Safety; and
•The City has been awarded a $200,000 grant to fund repairs and upgrades to facilities at Eustis Park.