Wednesday, March 8, 2023

My 3.7.23 Meeting Summary

Last nigh the Council took action to terminate and renegotiate a Master Use Agreement (the Agreement) with the Clayton Business and Community Association (CBCA) whereby the CBCA had essentially all fees established by the City’s Master Fee Schedule waived for events held in town.  This action is not a reflection on the great work done by the CBCA, but rather it is the result of an effort to ensure the city is reimbursed for the costs incurred when events are held.  It is fairly routine for cities to charge a fee for use of its facilities, and Clayton is no different.  We have a master fee schedule that outlines the fees associated with the various uses of City resources.   

We are currently engaged with a vendor to help update our fee schedule in order to ensure the city is recouping its costs for certain services.  But with the agreement that was executed in 2008, the CBCA as an organization was exempted from paying these fees that make the city whole for its costs. 

While direct labor costs for police and maintenance were paid under the terms of the Agreement, overhead, other staff time, and the cost for use of city facilities were waived.  This includes things like the rental of The Grove Park, temporary use permits, noise permits, special event permits, and street closure fees.  In aggregate, based on our current fee schedule, these fees could sum to approximately $7,500 per event.

Given the relatively low magnitude of the fees under discussion, some of the vitriol and name calling over the idea that the city should recoup its actual costs was disappointing.

Still, I maintain and will reiterate that the CBCA is a fantastic organization which adds a tremendous amount of value to the residents of Clayton.  By hosting several events throughout the year, they are able to use the profits generated to donate back into the community.  In the past, the CBCA has generously donated not only to local non-profits and businesses, but also to schools, scholarship programs, and directly to the City for things like benches, the Grove gazebo, sponsorship of events, among other activities. 

These are great things.  But these great things should not exempt someone or a group from paying their fair share in order for the city to recover its costs.  The fees that we are talking about are not so high as to be prohibitively expensive either.  Some suggested that this is an effort to get rid of the CBCA, that this puts events in jeopardy, or that these fees are an attack on the organization, or that there wasn’t enough financial information known, or that this action was somehow done in secret.  None of these things are accurate.  Having an organization pay its fair share so that the City could recoup its costs is a normal part of City activity, not an attack on the organization.  And with the previously approved amounts per the City’s Master Fee Schedule, they are reasonable given the amount of resources needed when the City is used as a venue and the associated fees are clearly laid out in that document.  The termination followed the terms of the Agreement, was properly noticed and agendized, and was announced on various social media platforms.  Given the large turnout during the meeting, it’s clear that sufficient notice was given.

The commitment I made when re-elected was that I would not seek any tax increase without first exhausting all options to reduce expenses and increase efficiencies – raising taxes should be a last resort.  Right now the effort is focused on cost reduction through efficiency and elimination of unnecessary work, including efforts relating to energy efficiency, discontinuing service contracts that don’t provide sufficient benefits, and even closing City Hall to the public one day per week to provide staff time to focus. 

On the revenue side, we’ve begun a more robust analysis of our investment portfolio to ensure we are achieving the best possible yields in this high inflationary market.  Later this year we will be examining the City’s master fee schedule to ensure the amounts being charged reflect the costs incurred for various services.  When it comes to fees one thing stood out, and that was the Agreement between the City and the CBCA.

As a result, the Council voted to terminate and renegotiate the existing Agreement effective July 1, 2023.  This provides sufficient notice, aligns with the City’s fiscal year so budget planning could incorporate any relevant changes, and provides enough time such that a new agreement with the CBCA could be reached so that we can maintain efficient operations of the City, and the City could recoup its actual costs.