New Vision Blueprint will help city with planning and budgeting in the long run

Redmond City Council unanimously approved a new document that will help with the city's budgeting process, investment decisions and strategic actions for the future.

Redmond City Council unanimously approved a new document that will help with the city’s budgeting process, investment decisions and strategic actions for the future.

Vision Blueprint: Redmond’s Capital Investment Strategy, 2013-2030 — also known as VB or CIS — is an initiative for the city that can be considered a hybrid between planning and budgeting as it links the two processes.

Pete Sullivan, a senior planner in the long-range planning group for the City of Redmond, said VB looks 18 years into the future to 2030 (lining up with the city’s Comprehensive Plan) and examines the steps required to support the community’s vision as well as what these steps would cost. VB looks at Redmond’s capital project and program needs in various areas such as transportation, parks, utilities and public safety.

“We think this is a first for Washington state,” he said.

Sullivan added that VB exceeds the state’s requirements for jurisdictions to have capital facility plans included in their comprehensive plans and a six-year finance plan with a balanced budget. He said Redmond meets these requirements in other areas. As a result, the city has more flexibility to make changes and adjustments with VB, which summarizes the city’s capital investment needs and estimated revenues through 2030.

Sullivan said the challenge of looking so far into the future is that there is less certainty about which projects can be done as well as what they will actually cost. However, VB is beneficial to city staff as they can take a more holistic look at all of the city’s needs for the future and get a better understanding of hidden costs such as maintenance.

“We’re able to be smarter in prioritizing what we do,” Sullivan said.

He said just focusing on the near future can lead to missing these hidden costs, which leads to financial troubles for cities as they try to play catch up with maintenance.

Sullivan also said VB allows the city to see the interrelationships among departments under one umbrella. This allows them to coordinate projects better to save time and money. Additionally, VB gives the city a look at which projects are more straightforward in implementing and which would require policy change or coordinating with regional agencies. With the latter, VB would allow the city to take strategic actions when and where needed.

VB would allow Redmond to examine its capital funds and project needs and strategically set aside money for where it is needed.

At Tuesday’s special meeting, when Council approved the document, President Richard Cole said this would demonstrate to the public that the city is conscientious in how it spends the its money. He added that taxpayers would also be more willing to vote for a capital bond or levy measure if they saw the city setting aside money for capital projects ahead of time.

The total cost of all the project needs for Redmond through 2030 is estimated at $1 billion, but the projected revenue is $600 million, leaving a $400 million gap.

“That doesn’t come as a surprise,” Sullivan said.

He said the city’s vision is ambitious and staff will need to be creative in implementing it. VB gives them numbers to work with, so they can be wiser in their planning and decision making.

Council member Pat Vache said identifying funding gaps also allows the city to examine why it exists and strategize how to bridge it.

Before approving VB at Tuesday’s special meeting, Council approved the initial scope of work this past spring. Sullivan said the goal was to complete the document before the end of the year so staff and council — as well as the public — could use it as a tool during the upcoming Budget by Priorities (BP) process.

He added that the plan is to update VB every other year, so the document can continue to inform Council, staff and the public during future budgeting processes. This process keeps projects that have been budgeted as well as those that haven’t been budgeted for on people’s radars, streamlining the learning and relearning process.

“There’s just a lot to chew on during the budgeting process,” Sullivan said.

Redmond Mayor John Marchione said creating VB was added to Sullivan and his team’s workload, which already included the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

“They deserve a lot of the credit that happened behind the scenes,” Marchione said.

For more information, click here and scroll down to the Vision Blueprint section.

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