Monday, February 22, 2010

The Closing of Countryside

As is widely known now, a majority of City Council decided last week that continuing the operation of Countryside as a golf course is not in the best interests of the taxpayers of the city. This was a tough decision but a necessary one.

Countryside was purchased in 2005 with the idea that higher end housing could be built, offering more diversity in housing and increasing property tax revenues to the city. There were few responses to Requests for Proposals seeking developer/builders that could create this new housing, and so the course has remained in operation for the last several years.

Recently, the existing operator of the course and the city were in negotiations to try to come to an arrangement to continue operation of the propoerty as a golf course. I did not agree with the idea of putting $1.5 million of capital improvements into the course and continuing to operate it at a significant annual loss to the city. This yearly loss, of course, did not include the more than $400,000 a year in debt service payments for the purchase of the course.

While I fully realize the short-term negative feelings that closure of the course brings to a group of residents that play the course, I truly believe that in the long-term the repurposing of portions of the property into actual park space will be of greater benefit to the community. As is, residents living near the course cannot use the property recreationally unless it is for playing golf. By repurposing portions of the course into a park, more residents will be able to take children or grandchildren to enjoy the green space.

To those who this long-simmering decision impacts, I am hopeful that the long-term use of portions of the property as a park will bring more enjoyment and use, and will be of significantly less cost to the taxpayers throughout the entire community. At the very least, a decision has finally been made and the community can continue on with the knowledge that Council made the responsible decision, particularly in light of the enormous budgetary pressures the city is facing.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Budget Meeting tomorrow

Tomorrow, beginning at 9am, we will be meeting to begin the tough discussions necessary to prepare next fiscal year's budget. It should be an all day meeting, and anyone who is interested and can sneak away from work for a bit I would certainly recommend attend. If nothing else, it will provide insight into the way the budget is put together each year.

Please feel free to share any comments on specific programs or services that you feel should or should not be looked into for cost-savings.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Emergency Relief for Schools

Rosen Proposes Two Year, Emergency Meals Tax Increase
Says School budget needs short-term, immediate fix

ROANOKE, VA- Roanoke Councilman Court Rosen today proposed an emergency, two-year increase in the city’s prepared meal tax of 2% as short term fiscal first aid to provide the Roanoke City Public Schools needed breathing room amid massive state cuts to public education. The measure would help fill an enormous funding deficit within our schools and also alleviate significant pressure on the city’s budget, preserving public safety and other essential city programs and services.

“As a small business owner, the last thing I like to see is increased taxes, particularly during difficult economic times,” said Rosen. “But within the next eight weeks our schools must adopt a budget for next fiscal year, and we must look at what's best for the education of kids by trying to keep class sizes lower and preserving programs that benefit our urban youth.”If enacted, a 2% increase in the “meals tax” would have the following impact on the cost of meals in the City of Roanoke:

· On a $10 meal, it would add 20 cents to the cost of the meal
· On a $25 meal, it would add 50 cents to the cost of the meal
· On a $100 meal, it would add $2 to the cost of the meal

“This is only one proposal that deserves a public, transparent and vigorous debate,” Rosen said. “It’s important that city residents also recognize that this measure, while directed to fill a funding gap within our schools, will relieve significant pressure from the city’s budget, preserving needed programs and services delivered by hardworking, qualified employees of the City of Roanoke.”

The next two fiscal years are projected to be exceptionally difficult in fulfilling needed educational, economic development and social programs. If enacted, City Council should revisit this tax increase at the end of the next fiscal year, and should the economy rebound sooner than expected, the Council should revert the meals tax back to its current level. If, as expected, the next two fiscal years are as tough as expected, the sunset clause written into the proposed ordinance would guarantee the tax would end following the next two fiscal years.

“Additionally, this proposal stresses that any tax increase should sunset and end on June 30, 2012 and should be enacted only as a temporary measure and not as a ‘new’ source of revenue that either our schools or the city become reliant on,” said Rosen. “It would be a short-term, emergency tax to fill an emergency need that has been forced upon us at the state level.”

Rosen stressed that this proposal should be debated in the upcoming budget sessions that City Council will soon begin, and that he looks forward to other discussions, proposals and solutions by others to what soon could be devastating funding cuts leveled by the Commonwealth at our public schools.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


I just travelled some of the city streets, as I did last night, and crews have been out working all night plowing the roads. The main roads look cleared by and large and I've noticed that most neighborhood streets appear to have been plowed at least once.

Given the intensity of the storm and the hard work of so many city employees, I think the city has done an exceptional job during this heavy snowfall.

I hope you agree.