During their second meeting of July, the city board adopted a list of six goals they intend on directing their focus toward between now and 2020.
The list highlights six broad elements of the public sector: economic development and growth, infrastructure, zoning and code enforcement, finance, parks and communication. Each one of these areas were assigned one or more goal statements, specified objectives which may help to accomplish each stated goal, and an analysis following each objective, which explains how that objective will be accomplished.
Considering the ambiguous nature of some of the aforementioned areas, the objectives and analyses which follow them, the Herald-Leader will address each one in further detail over the next six weeks, beginning with economic development and growth. One of the key figures responsible for overseeing this goal is City Administrator Phillip Patterson.
Patterson said that first and foremost, it should be understood that something like economic advancement has the capacity for improvement on a perennial basis, and that accomplishing the two objectives listed under it does not mean the job is done. Nonetheless, summaries of the first and second objectives' goals as well as their analyses are listed below.
• Attract new business to Siloam Springs.
• Expand existing businesses.
• Encourage residential development that provides housing opportunities for all members of the community.
This objective is followed by an explanation that explains how these things will be done, and in this case, the explanation states one mechanism specifically the city intends on using: incentives. By offering the possibility of incentives to potential developers or industries considering coming to the area, city staff believes that this has the potential to increase both tax revenue and jobs, which could inherently lead to residential property development.
To specify, Patterson gave some examples of what types of incentives might be offered. He said that for large industries, incentives could include offering discounted utility costs that would apply over an extended period of time.
Patterson said this could be something such as a five-year plan that offers a 25 percent discount on the first year, a 20 percent on the second, a 15 percent on the third, a 10 percent on the fourth, a five percent on the fifth, and after that the discount would no longer be available. Other incentives that could be offered are things such as waiving certain costs - such as building permit fees - for developers, due to unexpected costs that arise throughout the construction process that may offset their original budget. Patterson also took the time to explain why offering incentives is important if the intention is to both attract new business as well as expand existing ones.
"(Incentives) get a bad reputation sometimes as being corporate welfare, but it is a public-private partnership," Patterson said. "So, (that is why) one of those objectives is to try to say, 'We have this need - whether it be for jobs or whatever the case may be, the city has this need - (and) you, Mr. Developer, are filling some of that need if you develop here. So if (the city) can help a little bit to ensure that happens, it is a good thing as we are going to get a positive return down the road.' It is mutually beneficial."
• Encourage county property owners to annex into the city voluntarily.
• Consider using other methods to annex county property owners into the city if attempts at voluntary annexation fail.
Similarly to the last objective, this is followed by an analysis which states that property worthy of annexation should be either A) "... in line with the city's future growth patterns," and B) "... existing county subdivisions that are receiving city services." Additionally, it states that the annexation of property will be beneficial to the city in that it would allow for that property to be regulated according to city regulations and statutes. Furthermore, the analysis stipulates that it will be necessary to "Work with property owners to discuss the benefits of annexation and review fiscal impacts of future annexations."
Patterson first talked about the approaches that can be used for annexation. Voluntary approaches can include things such as petitions that can be voluntarily signed by groups of property owners, while involuntary methods can be done via elections, or by having people sign pre-annexation agreements. A pre-annexation agreement would allow for county property owners to receive city services such as water or sewer, but would require them to annex into the city if or when the city deemed it necessary.
The benefits of annexation include the reception of city services, such as police, fire and other emergency services, as well as other services city residents are afforded, such as water, sewer and electrical services, Patterson said. He also explained that the city has been approached by county residents who want to become a part of the city, which is located just outside of the city limits, Patterson said.
"Some residents, like those in Dawn Hill, they would like to annex into the city, and when you ask them why, they say 'Well, we own businesses here, we pay sales tax here, and we would like to have a voice in the city elections,'" Patterson said.
As for what makes an annexation fiscally responsible, Patterson said that it is multifaceted, but that a large part of it comes down to whether the land in question is developed or undeveloped. If it is undeveloped, there is relatively no cost to the city and could actually allow for the city to use that land as a possible incentive to attract new businesses or expand existing businesses by offering to give it to them or sell it to them at a discount under the provision they agree to use it for something like the construction of a new facility that could lead to further job creation. If it is developed, however, making that decision involves determining if the amount of revenue that the city receives from sources such as property or sales tax is proportional to that of the expenditure required by having the new property.
"Hypothetically speaking, you annex 100 new homes, that increase in population and in the number of structures, is going to saddle the city significantly with a need for things such as increased police officers or a new fire station," Patterson said. "So, for the sake of discussion, let's say that those 100 new homes are all going to pay let's say $500 per year in city property taxes, it probably would not be that much, but that is $50,000 maybe. But, I am going to need not only one new police officer but I am going to need a new fire station.
"Well, one new police officer, that is not quite $50,000, probably a little more if you add all of the benefits and the gear and everything, but a new fire station? That is $1 million, maybe. That is not cost-effective. That said, we would not just do it for the sake of annexation and then find out 'Oh wait, I have got to add three police officers, I need to build a new fire station, and not to mention that I have got this hundreds of thousands of dollar bill to whatever electrical provider because we made all of those individuals come over to the city electric.'"
General News on 08/08/2018
Print Headline: A closer look at the city's 2019-2020 goal for economic growth