11/11/2019

City Council Meeting

7pm

Municipal Building Council Chamber, 220 S. Main St.

Event Details

11/11/2019

City Council Meeting

This is a link to the agenda (click on the blue-colored text for documents detailing the respective agenda items):  https://www.newarkde.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/6311

Agenda items of note:

5A: a lot of time & effort has been invested in the Community Sustainability Plan so please take a look at the presentation. 

6C: City Council Chamber renovations for $25,000. Some of this is driven by safety concerns with exiting in the event of an emergency.  The renovations will be paid from the 2019 budget with excess real estate transfer tax revenue, but I point it out due to concerns of some residents with our 2020 budget discussions & expenditures.

7A: increases the deposit amount for residential non-owner occupied locations.  Our City has about 2,743 closed accounts with balances outstanding of $555,559.  A large portion of this is due to our transient student residents that leave town and skip out on their bill.  A deposit amount of $300 on these accounts as opposed to the current $100 amount would have reduced outstanding accounts by 66% and the outstanding balance by about half.  

Monday's meeting should be livestreamed as usual through this link: https://livestream.com/newarkde

You can watch the meeting live from that link or later at your convenience.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns, or alternative perspectives.

7pm

Municipal Building Council Chamber, 220 S. Main St.

11/18/2020

City Council Meeting

7pm

Municipal Building Council Chamber 220 S. Main St.

Event Details

11/18/2020

City Council Meeting

This is a link to the agenda (click on the blue-colored text for documents detailing the respective agenda items): https://newarkde.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/6322

This meeting is dedicated to setting our City's 2020 budget.  As I mentioned before, my focus through this budget process has been on maintaining levels of service our residents appreciate while keeping tax increases and fees low.  We have made great progress in doing that and I think it is fair to say I have proposed the most aggressive cuts to planned expenditures--mostly by deferring them into 2021 where they can be reassessed for importance. 

I have a conference call this afternoon with with our City Manager and Finance Director about my thoughts on additional areas to defer expenses with the idea that our Mayor, Council, and Staff are committed to making additional improvements to City operations that should increase financial health into 2020.  For example, charging users the approximate $900,000/year our City takes as an expense for customers that pay bills by credit card.  I think a no-fee option to pay by credit card at our Municipal Building without being charged a fee would still be available.  

We are also exploring the option proposed by some District 1 residents to increase the parking fees in City lots to match those nearest to the University's Trabant Parking garage during the week when classes are in session as a means to not only increase parking revenue, but also keep the City lots more available for business patrons.  On weekends and evenings when classes are not in session, our new parking technology will allow for reduction of the parking rates to the benefit of local residents and visitors.  Any rate increase will likely not occur until September 2020 after the Main St. rehab is complete and classes are back in session.

The recently-announced sale of the Newark Shopping Center will generate real estate transfer tax revenue to Newark (1% of the sale price) that I will ensure is included in our 2020 budget, as well as the expected real estate lodging tax from the Main St. Hyatt hotel.

I plan to discuss with our supervisors this afternoon what additional capital expenses can be deferred to 2021 and perhaps paid for in 2020 only as some of our operational improvements come to fruition.

We still have a budget shortfall of $1,050,000 (down from our initial $1.9 million).  A portion of this can be made up with a 2.14% property tax increase, 1.25% water rate increase, and 0.5% sewer rate increase.  These 3 increases are a direct result of the referendum decided by popular vote to fund the storm water pond and park at the former University Rodney dormitory site.  I plan to vote to approve these increases to properly fund the project voters approved.
That still leaves a $825,000 shortfall to close.  As shown in tonight's initial presentation, (see the following link) https://newarkde.gov/DocumentCenter/View/13077/2A

We have options A, B, C, and D to close the budget shortfall.  Option A proposes a new refuse fee to fund that service, which is currently funded from other revenue sources.  That fee would only be charged to those who receive trash service.  To close the $825,000 gap, we need to charge a $9.87/month refuse fee without raising additional property taxes or water and sewer rates.  The other options do not charge a refuse fee, but require double-digit property tax increases between 15 and 30%. 

Slides 10 and 11 of the attached presentation are a nice breakout of the impacts of the various options. Option B is the least impactful, but charges some residents more that do not receive trash service by increasing property taxes and utility rates.  Our City's trash service operates solely by transfers from enterprise/utility funds and our City is generally trying to get to a point where our fees more accurately reflect services (e.g. we are currently evaluating increases to development and permitting fees as well).

My effort today is to try and shrink the budget shortfall more.  If a shortfall has to be closed, I understand some of you would prefer a property tax increase in order to deduct it from taxes because it does not appear any refuse fee will be tax deductible.  Because we have residents in District 1 that both receive and do not receive trash service, I am willing to consider a reduced refuse fee of $5/month or $60/year (or lower) without raising other rates above the referendum increases.  I do not know how impactful a $60 fee will be on an individual tax deduction and I would like to see a hardship option.  Retaining or outsourcing our City's trash service for the future would then have to be discussed, but I do not think we will find a $5/month service from any private company.  All of that said, I also like that it keeps our "shortfall" fund separate in the refuse fee revenue and will request a way to reassess at the end of 2020 how much of the fee could be refunded to the paying residents if our other operational initiatives and revenue increases come to fruition.  
Option A (with the refuse fee) would increase the average residential bill $11.32/month.  If I can make progress today, I hope to reduce that increase to $6.45/month or $77.40/year.

Tonight's meeting should be livestreamed as usual through this link: https://livestream.com/newarkde

You can watch the meeting live from that link or later at your convenience.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns, or alternative perspectives.
 

7pm

Municipal Building Council Chamber 220 S. Main St.

11/25/2019

City Council Meeting

7pm

Municipal Building Council Chamber, 220 S. Main St.

Event Details

11/25/2019

City Council Meeting

This is a link to the agenda (click on the blue-colored text for documents detailing the respective agenda items):  https://www.newarkde.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/6331

Agenda items of note:

8A:  Recommendation of our Planning Commission (by vote of 4-0) for City Council to approve the request of Lang Development Group for a Major Subdivision of 1.135 +/- Acres to Demolish the Existing Single-Story Fulton Bank Structure and Construct Three-Story Mixed-Use Building with Parking and 6,000 Square Feet of Commercial Space on the First Floor and 16 Two-Bedroom and 14 Three-Bedroom Units for a Total of 30 Apartments on the Second and Third Floors at the Property Located at 287 East Main Street.


The following link contains the associated Planning & Development Dept. report:
https://newarkde.gov/DocumentCenter/View/13104/287-East-Main-Supporting-Materials

You may also review the plans for this project in person at our City's Municipal Building in the Planning & Development Dept. between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (today).

This is a public meeting. You may submit written or oral comment at the meeting for our Mayor & City Council to consider. You may also email written comment by 5 p.m. today to our City Secretary at the following address:
RBensley@newark.de.us 


Tonight's meeting should be livestreamed as usual through this link: https://livestream.com/newarkde

You can watch the meeting live from that link or later at your convenience.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns, or alternative perspectives.

7pm

Municipal Building Council Chamber, 220 S. Main St.

12/2/2019

City Council Meeting

7pm

Municipal Building Council Chamber, 220 S. Main St.

Event Details

12/2/2019

City Council Meeting

This is a link to the agenda (click on the blue-colored text for documents detailing the respective agenda items):  https://www.newarkde.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/6339 


This meeting is focused on renewable energy.  Agenda items 2A and 2B pertain to expanded use of photovoltaics (specifically, solar panels) in our City.  Item 3A1 is discussion of options for our City to secure renewable energy sources.  One of these options involves obtaining and using undeveloped land.  I am certainly open-minded for any discussion, but from our last round of budget discussions I have concerns that our City is not in the financial position to be purchasing new land with cash if that is the proposal.  


I expect a lot of discussion on Item 3A2 (potential city wage tax and/or University of DE student headcount fee).  These ideas were proposed by some City residents as ways to address the large amount of non-taxable property in our City held by the University.  My concerns with both of these proposals are that: 1) the wage tax is a "scattershot" approach that will impact  businesses in our City unrelated to the University as well as some Newark residents that were just hit with a property tax increase and 2) the University told me their position is that the only fees that can be imposed on their students (per their   Charter with the State) are those approved by their Trustees; thus, a student head fee imposed by our City will inevitably result in expenditure of City taxpayer money on legal fees as a result of the University's strong opposition.  The suggestion of this fee has already caused a strain (from the University's perspective) on their relationship with our City that seemed to be improving dramatically since our current Mayor and Council took over in April.  We need to weigh the likelihood of losing a lawsuit with the University over this, the expected legal fees to fight that battle, and long-term revenue from the fee against the implications for our long-term relationship with the University.    


The meeting should be livestreamed as usual through this link: https://livestream.com/newarkde 

You can watch the meeting live from that link or later at your convenience.


Please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns, or alternative perspectives.

7pm

Municipal Building Council Chamber, 220 S. Main St.

12/9/2019

City Council Meeting

7pm

Municipal Building Council Chamber, 220 S. Main St., Newark

Event Details

12/9/2019

City Council Meeting

This is a link to the agenda (click on the blue-colored text for documents detailing the respective agenda items):
https://newarkde.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/6347


Most of this meeting will be administrative in nature and involves updates to our City Code to reflect updated building code standards and prior Council votes.


There is one application from Atexquita Restaurant (136 S. Main St.) for a special use permit to sell and consume alcohol on the premises:
https://newarkde.gov/DocumentCenter/View/13151/8A


The meeting should be livestreamed as usual through this link: https://livestream.com/newarkde


You can watch the meeting live from that link or later at your convenience. 

Please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns, or alternative perspectives.

7pm

Municipal Building Council Chamber, 220 S. Main St., Newark