Here are just some of the issues:
Bellaire currently has debt of $123 million with plans to issue another $6 million in bonds and a proposed $66 million bond election on the horizon. Our current debt service is approaching $10 million per year. At $200 million the debt service would be in the range of $15 million per year. This is not sustainable in a city that brings in $20 million in property taxes each year. We need to focus on paying down debt, not increasing debt. Projects that can be deferred, should be deferred until we can pay as we go.
Spending on operations also needs to be reined in. The current city council has failed to prioritize spending. Instead of focusing on the justification for each line item in the budget, the focus should be on setting limits and then ensuring delivery of the services residents want and need. The overall increases in spending over the past four years is not sustainable and must be brought under control.
Solutions involve hard work. First, the city must do the analysis that now is being done by private citizens. Second, a cost benefit analysis must be done on all projects. Third, corporate America has learned to do more with less. So can we.
I have run a company with a $6 million budget, that ran a $300 million payroll for 25 companies employing union labor. I have the background to implement efficiencies to make our tax dollars go further.
A Failure to Communicate
When the city spends $50,000 for a new logo that citizens do not want, spends $2.5 million on Spruce when every business on the street begged them not to, and proposes to spend millions to build sidewalks citizens do not want, there is a failure to communicate. More specifically, a failure to listen. You know you have a problem when citizens go to the effort of a petition drive. Fortunately, there is a simple solution. As George Washington said, the three steps to leadership are listen, learn and then lead. My first priority will be to listen to the citizens of Bellaire.
Zoning protects and enhances property values by giving owners and developers predictable development in their neighborhood. Developers have sought to change Bellaire zoning to fit their project. Bellaire should encourage development that complies with the zoning requirements and reject developer changes to zoning. If developers are allowed to change zoning to fit their project, there is no point in having zoning. I am familiar with Bellaire zoning because I served for six years on the Bellaire Board of Adjustments.