Town Council members highlighted economic and downtown development as chief priorities for the upcoming fiscal year at a wide-ranging budget retreat Friday, March 4.
An informal, sticky-note-based vote revealed the five council members and mayor support proactively extending town infrastructure into areas of potential economic growth. That could include roads, water and sewer, schools and sidewalks.
“I don’t run into people saying they feel like we have enough people,” Councilwoman Nicole Dozier said. “What I hear people saying is that we need to make sure we have proper infrastructure, that there’s a school for every kid, and that kids can get to that school safely.”
Five of the six council members, including Mayor Lance Olive, indicated they would support the construction of a “stealth” parking deck downtown, which could include a brick facade as an aesthetic compromise.
“Every time we open up 10 or 15 parking spaces downtown, they’ve got cars in them immediately, so one of the things we want to do is go vertical,” Olive said. “If we know we’re going to grow out and up right now, why not do it now while it’s less expensive?”
Council members each had 15 sticky notes to place beside their choices from among 44 proposed initiatives, which included items such as road improvements, greenway connectivity and affordable housing. Their input was tabulated by the town staff members responsible for drafting next year’s budget, which must be finalized by the end of June.
Interim Town Manager Drew Havens said his office anticipated submitting a draft budget to the council for revisions April 5, followed by a public hearing on May 3.
Apex’s Finance Director Vance Holloman said the town’s finances received a triple-A rating from Standard & Poors and a high double-A rating from Moody’s after the agencies’ most recent appraisals. Holloman said the town has more than $15 million of reserves in its general fund, and noted the town’s especially high cash-to-debt ratio – $5.30 of cash for every dollar of debt — as a potential factor in those ratings.
The 2015-16 budget was for $45.5 million, of which the town expects to receive $42.5 million in revenue by September. The difference will be paid out of the town’s general fund savings, Holloman said.
“This isn’t us coming up short and taking it out of savings,” Olive said. “This is what we saved up for, and now we’re spending it.”
Last year’s retreat yielded the $15 million transportation bond passed in November, as well as commitment to a senior center, which is now in the planning stages.
Council members also used the eight-hour meeting to better acquaint themselves with the town’s finances and progress on various projects, including new sections of the Apex Peakway, the possibility of a town-run stormwater utility and various parks initiatives.
Gargan: 919-460-2604, @hgargan