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Prairie Village city councilor sounds alarm on decaying infrastructure, calls on council to ‘pay as it goes’
City Councilor Charles Clark feels strongly that it’s the duty of the city to protect and maintain the infrastructure built up in Prairie Village since the city was incorporated in 1951.And he’s warning his colleagues on the City Council that, unless they make changes to the city’s revenue and spending formula, the roads, parks, sewers, storm water system and city buildings that took more than 50 years to develop will being to decay.
Two days day after the City Council voted down a measure to put a referendum on the November election ballot asking voters if they wanted a 3/8 percent sales tax hike to fund parks improvement and maintenance, Clark sent a memo to his fellow 11 City Councilors outlining his concerns about the city’s current trajectory.
In the letter, Clark (bio here) argues that the longer the city delays needed repairs to roads, buildings and other infrastructure, the more expensive it will be to fix things in the long run.
“Sooner or later then, we will spend the money it takes to do major repairs or replace our capital assets,” he writes. “The only question is: Will we do so in a cost-effective way, when we should (the smart way) or the much more expensive way, when a crisis demands we must (the dumb way).”
He points to crisis situations in cities like Fairway, which was forced to put out a major bond issue to pay for decaying streets, a new bridge and repairs to city buildings, causing a very large jump in taxes.
In a message to the Prairie Village Post, Clark outlined the messages he hopes Prairie Village residents will come to understand:
1. We must and we will repair and replace Prairie Village streets, storm water systems, parks and public buildings. These are mandatory, not optional expenses. The real question is when.
2. It is less expensive by far to repair and replace our capital assets at the same rate they wear out than it is to continue to postpone until we reach a crisis. This is the truly conservative way to do things. Failure to pay as you go has severe consequences.
3. The level of taxing and spending in Prairie Village is a Council decision. The City Staff prepares a budget based on what they have been told the Council wants. The Staff has been told not to increase taxes now. The current level of CIP (the Capital Improvement Projects budget) is half or less what Staff would professionally recommend without that stricture.
4. There are no “savings” that can be made in the Operating Budget that would amount to even a small percentage of the need for CIP. We should, and we do, closely examine the Operating Budget each year. There might be a few hundreds or thousands of dollars in operations that some believe could be cut, but we need millions more in CIP.
5. The Prairie Village City Council is highly responsive to that part of the public who writes and calls them. The majority of the Council does now, and has for as long as I can remember, believe that our citizens’ primary concern is the amount on next year’s tax bill. That is what the Council hears.
6. It requires real political courage to tell your citizens the City must now increase taxes for the good of our community in the long run. We are not even close to paying as we go. Our citizens need to tell the Council they understand that necessity and want the lowest long run cost instead of the lowest taxes next year.
Download a full copy of his letter to the council by clicking the thumbnail image above.