Moore proposes city look long range to maintain infrastructure

Posted: Feb. 13, 2013 10:12 am Updated: Feb. 27, 2013 11:15 am

By MATT HOPFHerald-Whig Staff Writer

Republican mayoral candidate Kyle Moore says he plans to establish a five-year strategic budgeting plan to help identify revenue and direct city spending if he is elected April 9.

Moore, a first-term alderman trying to unseat incumbent Mayor John Spring, announced what he called his fiscal plan during a news conference Wednesday morning at his campaign headquarters in downtown Quincy.

Last month, Moore proposed creating a communitywide measurement tool called "the Quincy Scorecard" to track city operations to try to improve services.

In an interview, Moore admitted that the number of variables outside the city's control -- from the state of the economy to the rise and fall of income and sales tax revenue -- will make it difficult for any long-range fiscal planning to be precise.

But he thinks looking ahead will enable the city to identify needs and look for possible ways to pay for them. He said two Illinois cities -- Normal and Urbana -- currently have multiyear budget plans.

"There are always going to be things that we don't foresee," Moore said. "It's just like your home. You may come home one night and your washer may be broken. You didn't plan on that expense, and that's going to happen in city government.

"(Still), the budget that we pass every year will be just one of an overall strategic plan that is formed by citizens and leaders of our city."

Moore believes the city specifically needs to "start having a conversation on how we are going to maintain our infrastructure and maintain it over a long period of time."

He suggests that the city should put any revenue it receives above annual projections from its home rule sales tax into an infrastructure fund. He contends the city could have redirected an additional $1.7 million on infrastructure projects since 2005 if such a plan had been in place.

"When our economy grows, then we can capture the added revenue that we collect as a city and use that for infrastructure improvements," Moore said.

Those plans don't always materialize, however.

Spring proposed and the City Council approved an infrastructure program in 2008 that earmarked $2 million for multiple years in the capital budget for big-ticket street repairs in all seven of the city's wards.

However, in the wake of declining state revenue because of the recession, the city was forced to freeze all capital projects not under way by fall 2009. With the economy still teetering, the program was indefinitely suspended in April 2010 because the city lacked funds to carry out other projects.

Moore also suggests that a revenue stream or corresponding budget cuts must be found if the city wants to borrow money. Currently, the city either receives revenue from property taxes to pay off bonds or uses money from the general fund to make payments. After the city bought two firetrucks in 2009, money that the city received for fire protection from the Illinois Veterans Home was directed to pay off the loan.

"There may be problems that arise, such as our combined sewer overflow repairs, that may require borrowing," he said. "But we will identify a revenue stream or budgetary savings to account for the future payments."

Moore has proposed using revenue from the city's 10-year franchise agreement with Ameren Illinois to pay down debt. That money was originally earmarked for green energy-saving projects around the city.

"We do these programs and say we're going to save money, and when the city does, they just spend this money over again," he claimed. "The savings are never realized for the taxpayer."

Moore also questioned whether department heads and council members adequately planned for replacing the city's garbage collection fleet.

The city bought five garbage trucks and four recycling trucks in 2001 for $1.012 million and paid them off in six years -- just before the recession hit and made money tight. A special committee is now studying whether those trucks should be replaced or whether collection of garbage and recycling should be altered.

"They could have researched the historic life span of our rolling stock and should have been ready to replace the vehicles as the need arose," Moore said. "Instead, they are considering another round of unsupported debt to replace this equipment or a reduction in direct services provided by the city to the taxpayers of Quincy."