Councilors approve $69.6 million 2017-18 budget, urban renewal changes

Lebanon City Council members unanimously approved the 2017-18 budget and urban renewal district resolutions at the June 14 Council meeting.

City Manger Gary Marks presented an overview of the $69.6 million budget.

Overall staffing is increased by two FTE – a new police officer position and a staff electrician.

The budget also reflects a 32.1 percent increase in PERS.

“We are anticipating that we will see more increases,” Marks said of the public employee retirement system.

Councilor Rebecca Grizzle asked about the PERS payment in relation to hiring.

“We talked about the PERS thing and that next year we’ll have a year off,” Grizzle said.

“I’m worried that we’ll take that off and hire a bunch of people then that next year have to come up with a bunch of money and have to let people go.

“Can you address how we’ll balance that?”

Marks said they will have to look at revenue growth and be confident that any added position will be sustainable.

“We still have to meet the goals that you set and we have to be prepared for what the PERS system is going to require of us,” Marks said.

“It is certainly possible, as I think your question suggests, we could be back to next year saying we really need to save up for the PERS payment; but that’s going to be a factor of our continued community growth and to what extent that continues.

“If we see robust addition to our revenues over this next year, that might influence us to feel we might be able to add a position or two more. We’ll be very conservative with any decision of that nature and will be providing that information that we base that decision on to the budget committee and to this body next year.”

The council adjourned and its members reconvened as the Urban Renewal Agency Board to approve urban renewal development resolutions and an amendment.

“We’re bringing a resolution before the agency to amend the project list within the (Northwest) URD,” said Walt Wendolowski, community development director.

Every URD has a project list, he said, which lists projects that can be funded through the URD mechanism.

He cited some examples of projects that have been done through  the URD and pointed out that such are usually improvements to streets, curbs, sewer and water.

“However, at times we have other projects that come up that were not on the list that would benefit the city and certainly the district, but we really have no mechanism to work with the developer to assist in that development because the project is simply not on the list and we cannot go forward,” Wendolowski said.

“What we’re proposing tonight is a change to the project list which will include a sort of elastic clause, if you will.”

The clause will allow the city to enter into agreements with individual property developers.

“This change does not grant any additional authority to staff to enter into agreements,” Wendolowski said.

“All the agreements, as before, will have to come before the agency for final approval. But again, this does allow the city some flexibility if we have that unique circumstance that comes up. So instead of amending the job list every time, we can just simply enter into that agreement and bring it forward to the council.”

Councilor Robert Furlow asked if this was something discussed in Planning Commission.

Wendolowski said staff contacted an urban renewal specialist attorney about an issue with a specific project.

“First of all, his comment was you have to amend the project list, but he also recommended going ahead and looking at sort of an elastic type of general option for the city to enter into,” Wendolowski said.

“In fact, I think this is something that I’ll probably think about adding to the other URDs as well. It just provides some flexibility for staff for those unique projects that just come along.”

Marks added that while the amendment will help with future flexibility, it will help support and move forward the Mill Race Project, which is located on Highway 20 and Reeves Parkway.

The amendment was unanimously approved.

City Attorney Tre Kennedy presented an economic development agreement between the city and Larry and Nikki Spires, whose entity Northside Developers LLC is developing the Mill Race Project northwest of the existing Samaritan campus across Highway 20 from Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital.   

“We don’t pay back anything that isn’t first received form the actual development itself,” Kennedy said.

The company will pay for their permits and fees, though it is reimbursable as it is part of public improvement, Kennedy said.

“I think it’s a fairly simple agreement and I believe it is key to their financing scheme to make this project happen,” Marks said.

Councilor Jason Bolen said he has heard about the project has not seen much as far as actual plans.

Marks said it is a mixed-use development, with the first phase being storage at the southwest corner of the property.

It will then expand to single- and multi-family housing, then some commercial developments.

“I believe they are hopeful for a grocery store, a couple of restaurants and some light industrial uses in bio-tech, but it is a mixed use development,” Marks said.