The City’s Capital Equipment and Projects Committee met on Tuesday, Jan. 20 to discuss some of the more looming infrastructure needs of New London over the next 10 years.
The process of developing the list of projects began over six months ago when City Administrator Kent Hager asked department heads and their respective committees to work at creating a 10-year capital equipment and project plan.
Committee members largely focused their discussion around funding the long-term list of projects that include everything from fire trucks to streets, building maintenance, sidewalks, computer equipment needs, and other public infrastructure.
City Finance Director Judy Radke compiled the lists and presented them to the Capital Equipment and Projects committee several months ago. One list includes items or projects under $25,000 and the other list contained items or projects over $25,000.
It was generally understood that projects over $25,000 could become part of, but are not limited to future bonding issues.
One of the items on the list included the new city garage estimated to cost $3.7 million.
The anticipated closure of TIF 2 in 2016 will fully fund the new city garage project, in addition to a few other infrastructure projects in the city.
Referring to the list compiled during the long range planning process, Radke informed committee members that the needs of the city go far beyond the scope of just a new city garage.
“The question is, how much, and how many projects are we willing to get done,” said Radke.
“I think it’s important to start by asking ourselves what does it look like, if we fund everything on this list.”
The list of projects and equipment needs totaled approximately $17 million.
The city streets and roadway 10-year plan accounts for just over $9 million of the total (without inflation cost figured in).
“We know that the city garage project and a few street repairs will be funded through the TIF closure, but from there you folks are going to have to decide what is going to get done,” said Radke.
She presented some financial documents on the city’s current debt, which is among the State’s lowest.
In accordance with Wisconsin StatuTes, a city’s total general obligation indebtedness may not exceed five percent of the equalized value of taxable property. As of 2013, New London’s debt capacity was $17,798,540 while the city’s actual debt at that year’s end was $4,029,776.
Per capita debt in New London was $567 per person as compared to the state average of $1,614.
“I think we’ve been very conservative in our tax increases over the last five years,” said Radke. “At some point we have to decide what projects we are not going to do. I need you to tell me what to do next.”
She said she hopes the committee can give her clear direction in future capital project meetings where needs are matched up with possible funding options.
“I want a tolerance level from you folks, as an increase that you would be willing to take a look at,” she said.
Mayor Gary Henke said, “We can’t afford to do nothing. We’ve got 42 miles of streets.” He added, “We can’t keep doing one block of street per year. We’ve got to do something.”
“I think we can tolerate an increase of $10-15 dollars a year to get some of the needed projects done,” said Henke. “To me $10 a year is less than my one month’s social security increase.”
Radke explained that a ten-cent increase in the mill rate would result in a $10 per year tax increase on a $100,000 home. “There is a lot that the city can get done for $10 a year,” said Radke.
Alderman Bob Besaw said, “I think as long as people see the money getting put back into our streets, I can live with that. If we don’t do something we’re going to fall behind even worse,” he said. “It is important tax payers see things getting done for their ten dollars.”
Others agreed and requested Radke create some funding schedules they could examine at the next meeting as they continue to discuss financial options for the ten-year equipment and projects plan.