A majority of Middletown City Council wants to spend money on paving projects and the city’s housing stock/neighborhoods in 2018, according to an anonymous survey of members conducted by the city manager.
Last week, City Manager Doug Adkins asked for council’s preferences on spending priorities as city staff begins the groundwork to develop the 2018 budget in the coming months. While the amount of 2018 discretionary funding has not been determined, Adkins wanted “to get a rough idea” before city staff begins developing next year’s budget.
Council members were asked to identify what they felt were high, medium and low spending priorities for next year.
The 10 categories they ranked were:
- Downtown plan implementation
- Deferred city maintenance
- Improved transportation
- Recreation/health/quality of life
- City beautification
- Economic development/workforce development
- Additional public safety
- Housing stock/neighborhoods
- City marketing
Over the years, many residents have said paving, jobs and public safety are their top concerns for Middletown.
The survey were anonymous, and council members were asked to rank each spending area as a high, medium or low priority. Each of the 10 spending areas received at least some support from a council member, according to the survey results obtained by the Journal-News.
The Journal-News sent an email seeking comments from council members on their spending priorities rankings. Only Mayor Larry Mulligan and Councilman Talbott Moon returned emails seeking comment on the spending priorities ranking. Vice Mayor Dora Bronston and Councilmen Steve Bohannon and Dan Picard did not respond to the email request.
“All of these items are important and present difficult budgetary choices,” Moon said. “I promised residents I’d advocate for additional funding to paving our roads and for a more aggressive economic development approach.”
Moon said he’s asked city staff to prioritize those items for next year.
“Everyone knows we have a long way to go in repairing our roads,” Moon said. “We also have to continue to make the investments in economic development and workforce development which will drive new tax revenues allowing us to pay for the many other community priorities.”
Mulligan said it’s very early in the budget process and said “there are other variables we need to consider such as impact of state budget changes, CDBG funding from the federal government and our issues with health care costs and prudent fiscal management.”
He said the results of the rankings were in line with his expectations and that he was not surprised by the rankings, adding that streets and housing stock issues are critical to address.
Mulligan also pointed out that the spending areas are pretty broad.
“For example workforce and economic development touch many areas. Dealing with the opioid crisis impacts public safety,” he said.
As for changing his mind after seeing the aggregate spending rankings, Mulligan said, “All areas listed are important so while the ranking may shift we need to address all in some way.”
Mulligan said the spending priority rankings will help align the city’s future budget and should provide some meaningful outcomes.
While no spending area received the support of all five council members as a high priority, four council members ranked paving/sidewalks/medians and housing stock/neighborhoods as high priority areas for 2018 discretionary spending.
Three members ranked additional public safety and economic development/workforce development as high priority spending areas.
Four council members identified downtown plan implementation and city marketing areas as medium priorities.
Three others identified the areas of city beautification, improved transportation, and recreation/health/quality of life as medium priorities.
The area of deferred city maintenance was identified as a low priority by three council members.
Two council members felt that the areas of city beautification, improved transportation, and recreation/health/quality of life were also low priorities.
Council is expected to discuss budget priorities at its June 20 meeting at the Middletown City Building. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m.