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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


CIP Confusion and the Gladstone Savannah

I've been watching the replay of this past week's Parks Commission meeting, in which they voted against endorsing the proposed 2011-2015 Capital Improvement Plan. Unfortunately, there seems to be a persistent confusion through the meeting about how the CIP works.

For example, one concern was the proposed spending of Park Availability Charge funds on the Gladstone Savannah. A report to the City Council summarizing the Parks Commission concerns states, “The Parks and Recreation also made a motion to fund additional projects by cutting back on the Gladstone project and all non-Gladstone PAC fees be redirected to the unfunded projects identified.”

For years, the CIP has included seemingly imminent spending on the Gladstone Savannah. But very little if any has actually been spent. Here's how the project finances were described in the four most recent CIPs:
  • 2008-2012 CIP, p. 73: $900,000 to be spent in 2008; $100,000 in 2010; $500,000 in 2011; for $1.5 million total. All funds are identified as coming from the Park Development Fund.
  • 2009-2013 CIP, p. 69: This page seems to be erroneous – it reports $900,000 spent in prior years (which I don't think is true); $100,000 in 2010; $500,000 in 2011. Again, all funds are listed as coming from the Park Development Fund, with a total of $1.5 million across the CIP years. I'm guessing that the intent was just to move all the same figures a year forward instead.
  • 2010-2014 CIP, p. 65: This CIP listed prior year expenditures as $80,000 total. It also identifies a second funding sources: Special Assessment bonds (which were expected to be part of a redevelopment plan on the Tourist Cabins site) in addition to the Park Development Fund. Half of the prior year expenditures ($40,000 each) was to be allocated to each funding source. For 2010, we were supposedly going to spend $920,000 on the Savannah, half from the Park fund and half from Special Assessments. In 2012, $400,000 from park funds was identified; and again $400,000 in 2014. The grand total for the project in this CIP: $1.8 million.
  • 2011-2015 Draft CIP, p. 61: The prior year expenditures have dropped to zero, but a third funding source — the Environmental Utility Fund (which is used for stormwater management) has been added. 2011 expenditures are listed as $1.2 million total: $200,000 from the EUF; $400,000 from Special Assessment bonds; $600,000 from the Park Development Fund. The future expenditures from the Park Development Fund are reduced to $250,000 in 2013 and $250,000 in 2015. As a result of those reductions (and the disappearing prior year expenditures), the grand total for the project in this CIP is lower, at $1.7 million.
Obviously there are some inconsistencies from one document to another, and I'll be sure to ask about that on Monday. (Do we or should we account for the spending already done on things like the soils testing that found contamination?) But the big picture is this: For at least four years in a row, our CIP has projected that we would be putting $900,000+ into the Savannah the very next year — and it has not yet actually happened.

The reason is simple. The proposed Gladstone Savannah improvements have been and remain contingent upon there actually being development moving forward in the neighborhood. Every year it seems like that might finally happen (some approvals related to the latest effort are on our agenda for Monday), and so the related parks expenditures are included in the CIP for the next year. And so far, the development has failed to materialize. With no development, and no related PAC money, the Savannah improvements keep getting pushed off into the future. Each year the details change a little bit according to whatever is the current plan in the works (will it be assessed in part to a developer? will it include stormwater management features? etc.).

While respecting and agreeing with the intent of the Parks Commission, it appears that they are asking the city to do exactly what this CIP does in practice, just as the past CIPs have done. Without development in the neighborhood, there isn't money for the Savannah; but that doesn't mean there's any funding freed up for any of the other unfunded priorities in the park system. I don't see that there are any "non-Gladstone PAC fees" here to be redirected to other projects.

Moreover, note that the amount of projected funding coming from the Park Development Fund drops from $1.5 million in 2008-2012; to $1.3 million in 2010-2014; and now to $1.1 million in 2011-2015. So besides implicitly waiting for local PAC fees to be generated by development, just like past CIPs, this draft CIP proposes using $400,000 less from the Parks fund as well.

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