1. Patch: How has your first year as mayor gone? What do you think are your top accomplishments so far?
Mayor Goss: Much of this year’s focus has been spent working towards a more streamlined city government. The City is fortunate to have such a dedicated experienced staff. During this time of changeover setting a new direction involved hiring a Finance Director (Steve Nolen) and later in June, a City Administrator (Pete Rose). There have been some significant financial hurdles to overcome this year. First was the previous City Council’s reduction of the appropriation for the 2012 budget general fund in Dec of 2011.
In addition, there was also an error in the police budget, undetected until 2012, which was significant. It appears we may still be able to complete the year in the black through cost efficiencies and dedicated team work by the staff. We have also been able to put out a smaller version of a printed newsletter. There has also been an increased emphasis on ensuring broader representation on the City Commissions. We are fortunate to have obtained the FEMA funding necessary for the Lyons Creek bypass project.
2. Patch: Much was made about not raising property taxes even the 1 percent levy allowed under state law during the mayoral campaign last year. You said during one of the forums that the "voters didn't say no, they said hell no!" to property tax increases. The Council voted to not take the 1 percent increase the last two years. Your 2013 budget allows for a 1 percent increase for 2013, which some are opposed to. How do you explain that?
Mayor Goss: Two years ago, the previous administration and previous City Council placed Proposition 1 (also known as the 6 year Levy Lid Lift which amounted to about $850,000) on the ballot and the electorate voted 80 percent against. In comparison, the legally allowed 1 percent per year is about $28,000. Over the last few years the city staff has been reduced 15 percent. The general fund is where the property taxes go. Its budgeted expenditures have held steady from $7,138,568 in 2009 to the proposed $7,047,457 for 2013. The 2013 general fund budget is 1.1% less than the adjusted 2012 budget.
The competing value in putting together the preliminary budget was stability. We tried hard to put together a budget that could hold the current level of services and stop the need for layoffs every year or two. This budget comes much closer to sustainability. We are also trying hard to work on the sustainability of employment costs through the collective bargaining process so that drastic measures like furloughs need not be used. There is a strong argument for taking the 1 percent increase in the name of stability.
The finance office calculated an “average” Lake Forest Park household ($328,000 value) share of that increase at about $9. Also, on average, the City is about 12 percent of the property tax paid in Lake Forest Park.
3. Patch: What are the biggest challenges facing the city in the coming year?
Mayor Goss: The biggest challenge facing the city in the coming year, is continuing towards the long term goal of sustainability and to continue to economize, streamline and do the best job we can given the limited resources.
4. Patch: What are you looking for in a police chief as Chief Dennis Peterson retires and the process moves forward?
Mayor Goss: We are conducting the search for a new chief with a strong commitment to community policing and block watch, and who has demonstrated not only personal integrity, and professionalism but also able to hold the department to a high standard of the same. We are looking for a candidate who is approachable, and works as a team player with the other City departments.
We are looking for broad experience, ability to communicate effectively with the public and the media as a public representative of the city and to have the financial acumen needed to manage the police department’s expenditures to meet the City’s financial goals. In addition, we are looking for the ideal candidate to have emergency management experience especially in EOC (emergency operating center), and have human resource management experience including in handling disciplinary actions in a union setting.
5. Patch: What should be done with the $500,000 state grant for a Park & Ride in or near LFP since previous proposals have proven to be unpopular with some citizens. Is it use it or lose it at this point?
Mayor Goss: We are hopeful the solution to this question will be determined soon.