Larry Klein
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Covington sets sights on 5-year financial plan

City hopes to boost economy

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COVINGTON, Ky -- The city manager calls Covington’s 2013-14 proposed budget and five-year plan a part of “pro-biz, pro-city, pro-residents.”

Covington’s motto these days rings familiar as an abbreviation, however, the idea behind it — CVG: Courage + Vision = Growth — is aimed at fostering economic development and sustainability, said City Manager Larry Klein.

“[It’s] a five-year community reinvestment plan,” said Klein, at a Tuesday meeting, where he and Finance Director Bob Due met with the Covington Business Council. “The future is very optimistic — don’t look year to year. Let’s look into the future.”

Klein and Due presented an overview of what the FY2013-14 recommended budget will do for their community and how it will have an economic impact this year and over the next five years.

The reinvestment will not infringe upon the general fund budget for operations or reduce the money earmarked for public safety, said Due.

In fact, the city added $300,000 to both the police and fire departments’ budgets, adding 12 new firefighters and boosting the police force from 103 to 108 officers.

“It’s about allocating our resources in the best way possible.”

Now, Klein said, it’s time to allocate to the city’s overall wellbeing, making Covington clean, safe, and sustainable.

“We are at the point today to reinvest in the community,” he said. “It’s time to be proactive. We can’t change the past, we all know that, but we can determine our future.”

That future calls for total spending of $72 million over the next five years with $25.6 million for the budget year beginning in July, and $45.8 million allotted for FY2015 through FY2018 for capital improvement, or the city’s “Community Investment Plan,” in an effort to improve the city’s quality of life and attract new economic growth.

Annual allocation for capital improvement fund has been between $4 and $7 million in past years. This year’s budget was $7 million.

“The projects are weighted in the first year of the plan because investment in infrastructure has been so neglected in previous years, we wanted to give the capital plan a jump start,” said Due.

“[We’ve been] neglecting that investment for some time… so it’ll take time to catch up,” he said of the extra $18 million proposed in the next year’s budget.

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Where the $25.6 million is coming from:

  • $20 million = debt issue (A bulk of the December 2012 Bond Issue was not spent. The city had been saving it for this plan.)
  • $2 million = general fund
  • Sanitation district will contribute an unspecified amount toward projects.
  • Federal money- Community development block grants will make up the difference.

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5-year plan = $71.4 million divvied up:

  • Economic Development & Neighborhood Revitalization = $18.3 million

Money would go toward riverfront development, business development, acquisition of foreclosed properties—which include more than 40 properties—and residential development. In the near future, Klein said that he hopes that Covington’s riverfront will mirror Cincinnati’s developing economy.

  • Facilities & Recreation = $16.8 million

Two of the city’s public pools, which were open 10 weeks per year, have been closed due to deteriorating conditions, said Klein. But with the money allocated to recreation, the budget is slated to include a year-round Healthy Living Center, to include a pool. Other recreational advances are slated to include a skate park, revitalization of Randolph Park, the Licking River Greenway and the Devou Park Event Center.

New facilities projected to emerge from this budget include a new city hall, new firehouse and a new public works facility—all in an effort to maintain current and attract new businesses as well as residents.

  • Fleet & Equipment = $4.3 million

This money is earmarked for items like police cruisers, ambulances, snowplows, fire trucks, etc.

  • Infrastructure = $ 32.1 million

The budget for the next year calls for $8.8 million in spending on such things as sidewalks, streets, curbs, levees and storm water.

“Initial projects have been focused on sidewalks because that project is the most bid and implementation ready,” said Due, who said that street and sidewalk assessments have been done and those in the worst condition will take priority. 

“We want to look at the ones where we’ve seen with the greatest deterioration and that are trip-hazards. We want to concentrate on some specific areas, but we want all areas to see tax money at work.”

Infrastructure  will contribute to the overall wellbeing of the business community, said Pat Frew, executive director of the Covington Business Council.

“If you don’t have a commitment to a healthy population, people won’t want to come here,” Frew said. “Infrastructure issues are very important. Sidewalks are a mess. We have major catching up to do--[they] are an indication of what you think of your community.”

Those improvements to infrastructure will come at a cost to homeowners.

While there will be no tax increase for the general fund in the budget, the property tax rate, if decided by the City Commission in August, will increase by 4 percent, said Due.

The homeowner of a $100,000 home would pay $12 more per year with the proposed increase. That money, said Due, will be restricted for the infrastructure reinvestment fund and reserved for future upkeep and repairs, said Due.

Bill Wells, lifelong Covington resident, said the tax increase will be money put to good use and will be immediately visible through the repairs and development.

“I’m 100 percent for it. It’s a real thing. This is the way to do it.”

Wells, who is the chair of the Covington Neighborhood Collaborative, said reinvestment in the city, with new and improved infrastructure, is long overdue.

“The city has been on the decline for decades… this is one thing that will attract residents and businesses.”

 
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