Minutes of the Jan. 8th Council Meeting

Littleton City Council Study Session

January 8, 2007

 BIAAC Annual Report to Council 

Darrell Schulte was prepared to deliver a presentation to the Council on the annual report but Doug Clark suggested that since they had all read the report he would prefer to go right to the discussion which would give them more time to discuss the report. 

 

Schulte agreed but wanted to make a couple of statements first.  He said the City is not in trouble at this time and the question is not whether or not Littleton wants to change but how we change.

 

Clark started right in by saying that there is a philosophical difference between him and the committee.  The report commented that no new programs have been created with the exception of the K-9 police program slated for 2008.  Clark asked why we would have new programs at the same time the group states that the revenues are flat.

 

Schulte said it wasn’t bad that no new programs had been created but we have frozen salaries and not opened vacant positions.  The sales tax revenue is not keeping up with the annual increase in expenditures.  The key issue is what to do if we do not allow sales tax to grow with redevelopment opportunities.  (Salaries have not been frozen for the past several years as the report indicates – they were frozen in 2004.)

 

Clark noticed that Schulte was only referring to the sales tax portion of the city’s revenues and said he would understand if Schulte was using 100% of the revenues in his discussion.  To look at the City’s health based on ½ of the revenue source didn’t make sense.  In fact, if you look at the entire revenue stream it has gone up and keeping up with the added expenditures each year.

 

Schulte said the General Fund reserve was $11.3 million at the end of 2006.  At the end of 2007 the reserves were $9.4 million and the budget for 2008 shows that reserves will be at $5.8 million which is a major decline in revenue.

 

Clark told Schulte that he was using 2006 actual budget numbers with what was budgeted/proposed for 2007.  Because the City over estimates its expenditures and under estimates its revenues the projection BIAAC made was not accurate.  Clark then displayed a chart that shows the reserve fund balance has actually gone up in the past 5 years.

 

Actual Reserves in 2002              $10,044,281.00

Actual Reserves in 2003              $  8,873,000.00

Actual Reserves in 2004              $  8,145,842.00

Actual Reserves in 2005              $  9,808,837.00

Actual Reserves in 2006              $11,338,831.00

 

Clark has provided me with another chart that shows the General Fund Actual Revenue by Year.  (I cannot remember if this chart was displayed during the meeting or not but it is still good information so I am including it.)

 

2002                                                       $40,696,953

2003                                                       $40,803,414

2004                                                       $41,036,080

2005                                                       $42,059,223

2006                                                       $43,326,591

  

Clark then show a chart that showed $38 million in cash had been spent in the past several years for capital improvements – money that had been transferred from the General Fund to the Special Projects fund.  Clark said sales tax has been flat and will be a concern if it stays flat but it hasn’t impeded our ability to fund capital improvement projects or salaries.

 

Schulte said the 2007 budget shows the reserve balance a $9 million and Clark explained that the numbers Schulte was using are predicted numbers – not actual numbers – which will not be available until the books are audited later this year.

 

Clark said we have almost $4 million in increased spending that is driving down the fund balance but that is a choice the Council made and not an indication that the City is in trouble but an indication of council actions.

 

Schulte said the reason revenues have increased is because of Aspen Grove, Home Depot and Lowes but if we cut off revenue by not approving the next Home Depot or Lowes we won’t get the retail sales or redevelopment thrust to keep sales tax coming into Littleton.

 

Tom Mulvey took issue with a statement in the report that salaries were frozen for the past five years.  He said 2004 was the last time we had a salary freeze.

 

Jim Taylor said there was another issue – even though we had growth in various funds it has not allowed us to bring back public safety personnel because of a lack of funds.  Schulte is suggesting that without increases in those revenues we will be unable to fund annual requests for more police, fire and code enforcement people.

 

Peggy Cole said she appreciated the work of the group.  She had read all prior reports and said, not as an insult, this report did not do what the others have done in the past.  It appeared that the committee did not follow their charge as outlined in the Municipal Code.  She was looking for suggestions to help make Littleton more attractive to those that just drive through Littleton so they would stop rather than drive through.

 

Cole asked for more data – she would like to see the income data and age group data to be integrated.  She said a lot of people are remodeling their homes but you couldn’t tell by looking from the outside.  She has noticed young families moving into her neighborhood fixing up their homes etc.  She sees “bunches” of pre-school kids moving in and she wasn’t sure the data given really shows a good description of what is happening in Littleton.

 

Schulte explained that each year the Council gives them their charge and that is what they followed with this report. 

 

Cole wanted to know how poor Littleton is north of Ridge Road.

 

Schulte said they were just showing demographics of the city with the income chart in the report.

 Cole said younger families are coming and fixing up their homes and gradually improving the property.  Schulte said he couldn’t argue with that but the enrollment is declining in the schools year after year.  (This may be true but the enrollment numbers for LPS that come from the city limits has been flat – the drop in enrollment is being fed by the other areas that feed into LPS.) 

Doug Hauck, BIAAC members, said Littleton is not getting any younger – they are moving to Lowery, Stapleton and Wash Park.  There might be trickles of young families by you (Cole) but we are one of the oldest populations in the metro area.  We are not attracting the 25 to 30 year old people because of the old folks, no high density and no night life.  A lot of kids who grew up in Littleton are not coming back to live.

 Cole, who disagreed, said some of the people around her are moving back.  Hauck said from a business point of view we aren’t seeing the young.  (Hauck owns a very high end men’s clothing store in downtown Littleton.) 

Jose Trujillo, who represents District II, said he has seen the deterioration that is mentioned in the report in District II.  It happens only because the City and the Council has let it happen.  Kids won’t buy in Littleton because the homes are too expensive.  Older folks are buying.  In 1962 the apartments north of Littleton Blvd and west of Broadway were first class.  What’s happened?  He didn’t know what we were going to do to attract the young people – we need more affordable housing.  He didn’t know what the answer was – some would say eminent domain but that is not the answer.

 

Debbie Brinkman said she had read the report several times and after reading previous reports she found this one to be negative, judgmental, and presumptuous.  She thought it contained fear mongering and subtle inferences that felt like jabs.  The report was mostly opinion and supposition that was not supported by resources or footnotes.  Extreme generalizations were used and word choices were made to create fear and panic.  She believes some of the content may not be correct.

 

Brinkman found the words “property rights” absent from the report and the recommendations weren’t anything that they could get their hands around.  Examples:

  • the increased code enforcement – she thought it need more fleshing out and more depth.
  • The development of sub-area plans for vacant properties or those prime for redevelopment – what designates an area as “prime”

 

Schulte said the 2030 plan that was put together by CAC identifies “zones of change” – the area around light rail and the Santa Fe area have the most potential.

 

As to the fear mongering – we are saying that we are alarmed but not concerned about today but we see trends that are alarming is they continue.  It is not just Littleton – there are cities all over the nation that have these same issues.

 

Brad Uhlig, BIAAC member and Planning Commission liaison, gave an example of a prime area – the Norgren property, if sold, would be prime for redevelopment opportunities that could be the catalyst for that area but there is concern about what surrounds that property.  A sub-area plan is a good tool.  The city could go in and look at the neighborhood and put a plan together with the citizens rather than the City shoving something down their throats. The City has a vision and ambition for the area and developers could go into a project knowing that the City is behind them.

 

Clark said he was having a hard time with the long range fix when the scenario presented was that housing was not what the young entrepreneurial people want.  Even if we build what they want we will run out of vacant land and then what will we do?  Building what they want just delays the problem.  We could do all the code enforcement that we want and it won’t do it – how do we address the problem?  If neighborhoods are deteriorating because we have homes that nobody wants then the neighborhoods are areas of decline.

 

Uhlig said he is a younger person that lives in Littleton.  He has two young children and moved here 3 years ago.  Other communities, in order to attract the younger people had to do something drastic like eminent domain and tax incentives to create a new focal point for young people.  Once they come other activities spin off.  When he was making his decision to live in Littleton he saw that a new recreation center had just been built, the parks and museum showed him that Littleton was revitalizing and that was the catalyst for him to remodel the home he now lives in.  Littleton has character and a great location.  We have a good start but we are not taking it far enough.  Does Littleton want to age in place or attract young families?

 

Clark said Uhlig bought a 1955 home – wasn’t that a disincentive for you?

 

Uhlig said the home was partially inherited but it isn’t what they want.  He has seen a lot of progress in Littleton but we need to keep it up.  We need to be prodevelopment – there are a lot of opportunities and good momentum – we have to keep it going.

 

John Ostermiller thanked the group for the report saying it was the best one he had seen.  Unfortunately, some were trying to shoot the messenger.  He respected all of the members and they brought a tremendous amount of knowledge to the group. 

 

Ostermiller said the tenants in Woodlawn are not happy but the owner is because it is 100% rented and when the quality of tenants goes down we lose retail.  We need to start looking at what we can do as a council.

 

Kay Watson, BIAAC member and realtor, said when she takes clients to the north part of Littleton people ask if the area is every going to come back.  The declining enrollment is a significant issue for her.

 

Clark thanked the committee saying if they reported what the Council already knew and what they all agreed on it would not be a valuable report.

 Billing SystemThe current system used for sewer billing was an inexpensive approach to billing that has never worked properly and has been a complaint of the auditor year after year.  A new billing system has been proposed that will interface with the other City software. 

Brinkman asked about assurance that the proposed system will work knowing that the last system was purchased in 2005. 

 

Ken Price said they had learned lessons from the last experience that have helped.  They had better involvement by the other departments this time, did a user needs analysis and established requirements before going in.  He was certain that the outcome will be more successful this time.  The life cycle is 10 years and maybe longer.

 

Charlie Blosten thought he had budget that would absorb the extra $80,000 in cost but since it is Jan. 8th he may have to come back to them at a later date if the money wasn’t still available.

 Pipeline Hiring

Chief Coogan asked the Council to approve hiring in excess of their authorized strength.  There are not a lot of qualified police candidates and Littleton is competing with every other agency for good talent.  Recruits only graduate twice per year and many of them are employed before they enter the academy by agencies that are paying for their education.

 

Coogan said those that go to police academy are a self selected group.  She tries to recruit close to graduation rather than after.  The last group she interview (15) she did not get one candidate.  They are never at full strength and they always have salary left at the end of the year.  There are several police that are 55 or older and there will be a number of openings in the future.  She would like permission to hire two in excess of their authorized strength.  This will enable her to get them through testing and training perhaps in time to hit the street as someone is retiring.  (It takes eight to ten months for a new recruit to be ready to be one his/her own.)

 

Tom Mulvey asked how much it cost to send recruits to the academy.  Coogan did not know but thought it might be the way of the future.  Some departments that pay for the academy require reimbursement if the recruit doesn’t follow through.

 

There are currently 4 openings in the department and they are unable to fill them.

 

Clark said they are managing by head count rather than by budget.  He wanted some metric to be established that would determine the average head count. 

 

Ostermiller asked if they really cared how many officers she has if she stays within her budget.

 

Trujillo moved to approve the pipeline hiring and a metric be established to report the average head count on a monthly basis.  Ostermiller seconded and motion passed 7/0.

 

Clark commended Chief Coogan for the good job she is doing.

 Cash Fees Review

This is a request of Cole’s.  The Municipal Code states that the Open Space Fee has to be updated annually at the second meeting of the calendar year. 

 

Ostermiller, knowing that this is a subject for a future study session, asked if the Council could consider the Open Space Fees at a meeting that was not the second meeting of the year. 

 

Brad Bailey said the Council has authorization to review fees anytime but the Open Space fees are to be reviewed at the 2nd meeting of the year.  This is not cast in stone – you can change this.

 

Taylor thought it was premature do to anything tonight and they should go with the status quo.

 

Clark said he was inclined to do the same.  The way to solve the issue is to bring an Ordinance to the next meeting to change the section of the Municipal Code.

 

Bailey suggested changing the language to read from time to time the Council may review cash fees.

 Clark said that was acceptable and so moved.  Taylor seconded and the motion passed 7/0

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