Let the People Decide

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At Tuesday’s meeting, Central’s City Council approved the $285,000 purchase of two acres on which to build a 17,000 square foot two-story City Hall. In addition to this purchase and the $381,000 in architect’s fees, the construction of the building itself is estimated to carry a price tag of $4.5 million.
Large commitments of a city’s tax dollars to fund capital projects generally require a bond referendum or a tax, where the elected officials let the people decide. This is especially the case when the capital investment carries a price tag almost equal to a full year of the city’s operating budget, as with Mayor Shelton’s proposed building of a $4.5 million City Hall in Central. 
Because the privatization of city services by Central’s first group of appointed and elected officials resulted in significant annual cost savings, Central today has sufficient cash reserves to fund large expenditures when needed. As a result, Central’s current Mayor and Council are in the inherited position of being able to spend $4.5 million to build a City Hall without a vote of the people.
With no urgent need to commit to the project immediately, the Mayor and Council have three options that would allow the voters of the City of Central to decide whether a building of this size and cost should be built now, at a time when Central sits on the verge of a need for major capital outlays for drainage improvements. In addition, any of these options would provide an opportunity for the people to have a voice in a project that will impact generations to follow.
First, with Central’s elections coming this November, any of the Mayor and Council that will be seeking re-election could run their campaigns on a platform including building a $4.5 million City Hall. Then the people could decide, based on whether these officials are re-elected, whether there is a mandate to move forward with a project of this design and cost.
Second, the Mayor and Council could put the issue on November’s ballot as a referendum, letting the people vote on whether to spend this significant amount of the city’s limited resources at this time.
Third, in a move that would let the people decide as well as conserve current cash reserves for projects such as drainage improvements, the Mayor and Council could ask the voters to approve a $4.5 million bond to build City Hall, to be paid for over the next 20 years out of annual surplus revenues without a tax.
The City Council’s next step in this process would be to vote at a future meeting whether to appropriate $4.5 million of Central’s cash reserves to pay for this new City Hall. That single Council meeting will be the only opportunity for the citizens of Central to give formal public comment on whether it is wise to allocate $4.5 million of Central’s cash reserves to build a City Hall at this time. Regardless, the final decision will be made by only six citizens: Central’s Mayor and City Council.