Several City Councilors are seriously contemplating whether or not to forego this year’s $9.38 million Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) until next year when finances are expected to be more solid due to the first payment from the casino in June 2019.
Councilor Leo McKinnon’s Ways & Means Committee met on Monday night at City Hall for a continued discussion of the CIP, and the train of thought regarding a stoppage of the plan for one year to reduce spending.
The CIP is a regular spending item that focuses on capital improvements like refurbishing parks, buying streetlights, investing in municipal buildings and completing special projects. This year’s CIP looks at investing in similar infrastructure projects, but the question has become whether or not the City can afford it.
Eric Demas, the City’s chief financial officer, has said the City can afford the plan, and particularly because the spending wouldn’t hit the City’s bottom line until Fiscal year 2020. The City is currently in Fiscal Year 2019.
Councilor Fred Capone said maybe this year isn’t the best year to invest in capital projects, but that it could easily be picked up next year.
“I think now we need to temper things a bit and hold off until things are different,” he said. “My personal opinion is we need to proceed cautiously. We’ve been told a long time this is going to be our most difficult year financially. Maybe we hold off until next year when the casino opens and things are a little more solid.”
Councilor Michael McLaughlin also had concerns.
“We’ve done pretty much every park over, and I know these are important projects, but we’re also looking at a tax increase,” said Councilor Michael McLaughlin. “I have to think of the taxpayers here and I know that these projects could wait.”
Many of the projects include things such as new vehicles for City Departments, and reportedly the administration is reviewing which ones are absolutely necessary.
Councilor Wayne Matewsky said he was also hesitant to spend the money this year.
“We have all new parks now,” he said. “Let the homeowners get a break for once.”
The matter was reported out of the Ways & Means Committee with a recommendation that it be reviewed by the full Council.
The full Council is expected to vote on the CIP at an upcoming meeting.