My Platform: Lori Bagwell on the issues
Honoring the past, improving the present and planning for the future of Carson City
I was pleased to work with my fellow members on the board of supervisors to develop the City’s strategic plan. We have six strategic goals that I use as my guiding principles in making decisions and developing issues to address. I will continue this practice as your mayor. What follows beyond are related issues and accomplishments that pertain to my mayoral qualifications.
Economic Development – Cultivate a vibrant, diverse and dynamic economy that attracts and retains businesses and a skilled workforce.
Efficient Government – Provide our community with efficient services in a transparent and financially responsible manner.
Organizational Culture – Foster innovation, productivity and professional growth through a cohesive, ethical and positive work environment.
Quality of Life and Community – Promote educational, cultural and recreational opportunities that contribute to the health and well-being of our community.
Safety – Ensure a safe community through proactive and responsive protection of life and property.
Sustainable Infrastructure – Develop and maintain a sustainable public infrastructure to meet the current and future needs of our community.
During the economic downturn, the City was forced to greatly reduce expenditures to maintain a balanced budget. Insufficient money existed to maintain our buildings and equipment. While serving on the board of supervisors, I was pleased to introduce a savings program in our budget to meet long-term needs. I was also pleased to carry this a step further with Supervisor Brad Bonkowski to develop a program to determine what funding is needed annually to keep our capital in good repair. Several years ago, Brad and I presented a plan to dedicate a nickel of the property tax to fund this goal. The board of supervisors adopted this policy. My hope is to have the results of this planning for city assets within the next year. Once we have the results, we will need to determine if reserving a nickel was sufficient to meet our needs. We also hope this new program will provide a planning method to help the board determine capital spending priorities.
I worked with District Attorney Jason Woodbury to develop a plan for our municipal code to be rewritten so the public could more readily understand the rules, and the City could provide guidance on new issues that were not contemplated when the codes were last written. I am pleased to say that this endeavor was approved by the board of supervisors, and over the next four years, our entire code should be updated to reflect the needs of the community.
We are planning for the public safety needs of our community with our maximum growth potential in mind. If we grow to the projected population over the next 20 years of 75,000 people, we will need an additional fire station. We have a goal of reaching dispatched calls within four minutes. This goal provides the best opportunity to save lives. We have added an account within our budget to save for this need. We have several proposed new developments in town that have been assessed at $1,000 per parcel to help fund this need. My objective is to save the funding needed over time to prevent the need to raise taxes.
To save money while providing service, we also created the Basic Life Support Ambulance service. Previously, we provided advanced life support on every medical call. This was very expensive. I want to thank the Carson City Fire Department for working diligently to help us develop this new service.
I believe that our quality of life is important and is one of the reasons that I love Carson City. Our playgrounds are in desperate need of repair. I was pleased to bring forward a proposal to provide annual capital funding of $300,000 for park improvements, specifically playgrounds. The first new playground is at Ross Gold Park.
The Parks and Recreation Commission is also working on a plan to determine the best placement of outdoor sport courts in our parks. We have many courts that have deteriorated and are no longer usable. We cannot afford to maintain all the courts in our community. I support working on a plan to address our sport court needs while being fiscally sensible. Put the right courts in the right location!
We have an opportunity to work with the Nevada State Prison Preservation Society to open the Nevada State Prison for visitor tours. The society has many dedicated members that have been repairing and planning to open for tours. I believe this is a worthwhile project as long as we can participate without a tax or fee increase. We may have an opportunity for several organizations to come together with a small funding contribution and accomplish the opening goal, and then let the society be responsible for the ongoing needs of the facility. I like projects that can help the community but do not require a long-term taxpayer commitment.
We must maintain an appropriate ending fund balance to be able to meet an emergency or to provide time to adjust expenses in an economic downturn. To meet this goal, we changed our budgeting policy of reserving 5% of our funds to a minimum of 8.3% with a goal of increasing this to 16.7%. This would give us two months of cash on hand. I believe this is sound fiscal responsibility.
What level of service are we willing to accept for our roads? Our current estimate to maintain all our roads at a good level is approximately $15 million per year. We obtain funding for this purpose from sales tax, fuel taxes and grants. We are not able to keep pace. The Nevada Legislature approved a measure last year that allows local governments to increase diesel fuel taxes by a nickel. We have a few options to consider. We can leave the tax at the current rate, ask the people in a ballot measure to increase the tax by the nickel, or the board of supervisors with four of the five votes impose the nickel tax. I am already on record indicating that I believe the people should have an opportunity to vote on this measure. I committed to this during the legislative session and I am a person of my word. I do believe a comprehensive study is needed to reshape road funding or our roads will continue to further deteriorate.
We adopted a road maintenance plan that rotates the funding each year, so each area of town would have an opportunity to have some of their roads repaired (five road districts were created). I believe this was a good strategy as we also decided to try and do all water and sewer repairs at the same time to prevent the need to cut roads after they have been recently repaired. We also approved using excess taxes from the V&T fund to complete the Roop Street rehabilitation and East Clearview Drive preservation projects. I look at every dollar in the budget to see if we can find more money for roads.
We need to improve our stormwater system to reduce flooding potential. Many areas were developed years ago that did not provide appropriate detention ponds, curbs and gutters, or the needed infrastructure to meet stormwater flows. We will be faced with several options to increase the fees for raising the needed funds to protect the community. I will work hard to find a fair and balanced method to determine the appropriate fee structure. We will have several public comment opportunities to receive your input and ideas. Several opportunities will be available during evening hours as well as normal business hours.
How do we have enough housing available at appropriate pricing levels for the residents of our community? I was pleased to spearhead a project to examine City-owned properties that are no longer needed for public purposes and could be used for affordable housing or sold for economic development. I am pleased to say, we found three vacant city properties that could be converted to better uses. Two can potentially be used for workforce housing and one may be sold to fund some of our stormwater infrastructure.