MONDAY: West U council considers serious issues

March 12, 2017

west-u-signOn Monday night, the West University Place City Council will gather at the Municipal Building at 6:30 p.m. to decide some serious issues.

The Municipal Building is located at 3800 University Blvd.

Possible elimination of West U’s “savings accounts”
The council will consider eliminating reserve funds in the city’s annual budgeting process. This is an agenda item proposed by Councilmember Brennan Reilly, who is not seeking re-election on the May 6 ballot.

Reserve funds are like savings accounts – emergency provisions for special occurrences such as natural disasters, and unplanned expenses.

The Government Finance Officers Association recommends that municipalities keep a reserve balance in its general-purpose operating funds of no less than two months of regular general fund operating revenues.

Currently, West U’s budgeted reserve for it’s general-purpose operating fund is 20% of estimated revenues – 73 days.

The rationale behind the extra 12 days of emergency funding is that West U is a small Gulf Coast city and is vulnerable to natural disasters.

Reserve funds were used as emergency cash to fund the city’s problems associated with Hurricane Ike, to the tune of almost $1.2 million. About $1.1 million was reimbursed to West U by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, albeit about a year later.

As it relates to West U’s Water, Sewer, and Solid Waste Enterprise Fund, the GFOA recommends that the reserve balance for working capital never be less than 45 days of operating expenses.

West U’s budgeted reserve for the Water, Sewer, and Solid Waste Enterprise Fund is 36.5 days, already less than the GFOA “best practices” recommendation of 45 days.

WU counciltable-xavier feb2017Xavier Educational Academy
The city council will consider final approval of an ordinance that establishes new rules for private schools, potentially affecting Xavier Educational Academy, a private school located the West U Town Center.

Xavier is a for-profit private school that started in 2007. It began in a small rental space as a tutoring service. It has morphed into a full-service private school, now with 120 students in grades 5-12. Xavier’s rental space spans property on University Boulevard and Edloe Street — all in response to Xavier’s successful business and educational model.

If the city council adopts the ordinance at Monday’s meeting, Xavier will be given until May 31, 2022, to comply with the new law.

New Town Center parking requirements
The proper zoning rules for West U’s small downtown area, only a two-block stretch that serves as the eastmost border of West University Elementary School, has been a West U political ping-pong ball for more that 15 years.

The issue: there is not enough parking. In 2015, the adoption of the Town Center Commercial zoning district reduced the parking requirement to 2.6 parking spaces per 1K of building space – basically a replacement number – that is the existing number of spaces for the area.

The city council will consider, for its final approval, a zoning change that will increase the parking requirement to 7.5 per 1K for restaurants, and 4 spaces per 1K for all other permitted uses.

For comparison, both of these parking requirements are generally considered to be insufficient to meet the parking needs of a commercial development, and would not meet the parking requirements for the commercial zoning districts in other areas of West University Place.

New leadership
The city manager has appointed Marie Kalka to be West University Place’s new Finance Director, and Susan White to be the new Parks and Recreation Director. The city charter mandates that the appointment of a department head requires city council approval.

George Boehme

George Boehme is the publisher of and West University Essentials magazine.

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