A subcommittee of the Newton City Council will meet tonight to discuss the use of excess fiscal-year end fund balances and unencumbered TIF funds for a number of non-budgeted items, including the hiring of a Texas firm to help spur retail development in the city.
The three-member Finance & Procurement Committee, consisting of council members Craig Trotter, Steve Mullan and Evelyn George, will hear a plan to hire the Buxton Company from Fort Worth to conduct a retail analysis of Newton that will help identify specific companies "that the City can have a reasonable chance to land."
In his report to the Committee, City Administrator Bob Knabel notes that the City of Indianola recently retained Buxton to conduct a similar study in that community that resulted in approximately $3 million in development. Staff members, along with local Chamber and NDC officials, have discussed the results with Indianola officials and met via the Internet with representatives of Buxton to discuss the type of information they can provide.
" ... A high priority for the City is to bring young families and young professionals to the community," Knabel notes in his report. "Our Housing Initiative will only be a beginning for this enduring effort. But housing is not enough as the community must have the other amenities to attract the young professional. They must have the shopping and the restaurants and those quality of life features that will entice them to live here.
"Over the past several years, the City of Newton has done admirable work at bringing manufacturing jobs to the community. If has lacked, however, the same level of focus and success in bringing in retail and service businesses.
"Buxton, if hired, will provide the focus and the proactive approach needed to address some of the retail concerns. The report from the Buxton Company will identify specific companies and their requirements and will match those with our demographics. When finished, the City will have a listing of companies that the City can have a reasonable chance to land."
Cost of the Buxton retail analysis study is $65,000. It is being proposed that the funding come from fund balances in the Prairie Fire TIF District.
In addition, Knabel is proposing that ensure the endeavor's success, the city contract with an individual or firm for a six to nine month period to help make contacts with companies identified. In addition, it is being proposed that additional money be earmarked for marketing material and travel associated with the retail development effort.
In his report, he suggests the estimated $30,000 contract cost and $20,000 in travel expenses come from last year's positive fiscal year ending balance of $294,000. The $25,000 cost of the marketing effort is already budgeted in the current fiscal year and is being financed through TIF proceeds.
"With the funding available from the TIF District and the ending fund balance, the (Buxton) report and the implementation can be completed without impacting any current budget item," Knabel states in his report to the Committee.
Knabel is asking that the Committee recommend to the full council that it begin the process of entering into an agreement with Buxton and participate in a conference call with Company representatives to hear more about the plan.
In addition to the retail analysis study, the Finance & Procurement Committee will also discuss staff recommendations for the use of the $294,530 ending General Fund balance. Specifically, Knabel suggests the money be earmarked in the following ways:
- $50,000 - This amount will be added to the $35,000 already budgeted to complete renovation to the council chambers and City Hall atrium.
- $40,000 - This amount is being proposed for added security in and around City Hall. It includes new door locking systems, cameras around the building and special alarms for staff.
- $40,000 - This amount would be spent for exterior improvements to the City Hall complex including curbs, gutters, sidewalks, historic lights, landscaping, new signage and placement of a plaza at the corner of the property for a sculpture.
- $15,000 - These funds would be used to contract with DMACC to provide city staff training on "lean thinking" processes to improve efficiencies and effectiveness of daily operations.
- $50,000 - This amount would fund the services contract and travel expenses outlined in the Buxton Company plan.
- $40,000 - This amount would be used to implement the city's updated branding effort through new city signage for parks, buildings, emblems on vehicles, stationary and other logo needs of the city.
- $10,000 - Of the total, $4,000 would go to supplement the $11,000 already budgeted to install in-car cameras for the remaining three police vehicles with $6,000 to be spent to install a fiber optic line between the Newton Police Department and the Jasper County Attorney's Office.
- $42,700 - A total of $250,000 has been budgeted in the current year in what's termed the Community Betterment Fund to begin implementation of the city's Comprehensive Plan. The $42,700 would be set aside to begin the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Knabel is asking that the Committee recommend approval of the non-budgeted expenses listed and suggest that the matter come before the council at its Sept. 3 council meeting.
Other matters coming before the Committee tonight are recommendations that the Council begin the process of establishing the westside Fountain Hills subdivision - where city-owned lots are being proposed to be given away to developers - as a housing tax increment financing district and that the North Central Tax Increment Financing District be expanded to include the entire downtown area.