In my opinion the City Council is not doing their job to provide a long-range strategic vision for the City of Mill Creek. Two examples of this are the mismanaged handling of the Economic Development Committee’s hard work and the haphazard 2015-2016 budget discussions.
The Economic Development Committee was given the task to provide ideas for the city council to consider for the 2015-2016 budgets. Mayor Pruitt expressly asked that Director Rogers tell the committee to produce their report in time for budget deliberations. Mayor Pro Tem Harmsworth went to the first EDC meeting imploring the committee “to think outside the box.” This was his baby because he needed to hear from the community and the business community.
The Economic Development Committee’s report was presented to council on September 23rd, in plenty of time for budget discussions. What did the city council do with this strategic information? Nothing! The night the council was going to discuss attaching the finding to the cities strategic plan, Mayor Tem Harmsworth became ill and left.
In my opinion there was no discussion because the “outside the box” ideas from the Economic Development Committee included reducing the budget deficit by diversifying Mill Creek’s revenue, hiring additional city staff to promote Mill Creek’s economy, and planning for a civic center with which to draw foot traffic into the economic core of the city.
With Mayor Pro Tem Harmsworth in the middle of a political campaign he didn’t want a public discussion of these issues brought up by a committee whose members he, Mayor Pruitt, and Councilmember Holtzclaw selected. He didn’t want to have to explain why his “job creating” committee wanted to raise taxes and build a civic center because these ideas go against his ideology.
The Economic Development Committee’s ideas could have been discussed at any time in October if council wanted to. Every city council study session agenda has included an “Open Discussion” item on it since May 6th. Mayor Pruitt asked the City Manager to include this on the agenda because “this council has a lot to discuss.” Council has not taken this opportunity to have substantive discussions.
Now the council has to call a special meeting to discuss the 2015-2016 budget and 2015 property taxes because they say they didn’t have time to have the discussion until now. The City Manager has been very clear in preparing council and council should have had discussions all along. Director Manuel has been telling council about the structural budget deficit all year. I believe this is the result of poor planning on council’s part.
At the November 11th city council meeting Mayor Pro Tem Harmsworth lamented that it was too soon to talk about property taxes because they hadn’t yet discussed the budget. He seemed surprised at the timing of the County’s property tax deadline on December 1st and the State’s budget deadline on January 1st. As a two term City Councilmember he is quite privy to how the process works, as should all the sitting council.
Now Mayor Pro Tem Harmsworth rather request that our City Manager come back and inform the council what the budget would look like with a 5%, 10% and 15% reduction and how that will affect our services.
City staff has recommended a 3% property tax increase. It is time to move ahead with utility taxes so the burden does not fall solely on homeowners. It costs money to run a city. I implore the city council to address the structural budget deficit. Council’s job is to provide long-range vision and protect our cities financial health. In my opinion they are doing neither.