On Friday morning the annual Virginia Beach City Council Retreat got underway. The meeting started with a recap of the successes of the past year. Then each Councilperson listed the top 3 lessons they learned from the previous night's Community Conversation, and what they thought would be the top 4 action items for the coming year.
After lunch the 5 area headings were taken up: Create a Financially Sustainable City Providing Excellent Services, Grow and Diversify the Local Economy, Improve Transportation System, Revitalize Neighborhoods and Plan for the Future, and Be a Competitive, First Class Resort for Residents, Businesses, and Tourists. They were kept in that order of importance from the previous year, with the first two being tackled Friday afternoon.
CREATE A FINANCIALLY SUSTAINABLE CITY PROVIDING EXCELLENT SERVICES
1. Price of government linked to cost of services and citizens ability to pay.
2. More effective budget and financial planning process - understandable and usable.
3. Greater citizen satisfaction with easy access.
4. Services delivered in the most cost-effective manner.
5. Reliable delivery of daily services
Challenges and Opportunities
1. Forecasting the national economy
7. Reduction in state and Federal funding
8. Energy costs
9. Staffing for Public Safety
12. Interest rates
13. Reduction in assessments
2. Compensation Policy: direction and action
5. Public Safety Staffing
6. Real Estate Tax/Assessment Analysis of Impact
7. Green Initiatives: Actions
13. Animal Control: Direction
15. Total Compensation for New Hires: Policy, Direction, and Actions
24. Landfill/SPSA: Direction
GROW AND DIVERSIFY THE LOCAL ECONOMY
1. Business retention and growth
2. Attraction: new businesses
3. Develop Burton Station as a major business center
4. Expand Town Center
7. Expand military and military-related businesses
Challenges and Opportunities
1. Funding for economic development
4. Transportation and highway network in the region
8. National economy
9. Political will by Mayor and City Council
1. BRAC Strategy
8. Town Center Phase IV
10. Energy-related business attraction
19. Agriculture businesses
20. Job recruitment instructions - local and regional
21. Burton Station
The big economic news of the day was the preliminary report by Assessor Jerry Banagan that Assessment growth for next year will be 0%. That's right: zero. That will leave the projected FY 2010 Budget with a $68 million shortfall to be covered.
As for the FY 2009 Budget, on Tuesday City Council will consider an Ordinance to slash all operating departments by 1.25%, to deal with rising fuel costs.
Transportation will be first up Saturday morning, and it made for the best line of the day. Referring to the overwhelming support at the Community Conversation for light rail, it was said "Last night was the real light rail referendum."