Progress was the focus of Brighton’s State of the City Address, with attention paid to staff and officials’ improving ability to address issues like infrastructure needs, legacy costs, and communication with residents.
The address was given at Brighton City Council’s election meeting Monday night. It was delivered by Jim Muzzin, who was Mayor at the time, but later asked not to be nominated again for the position which resulted in the election of Shawn Pipoly as Mayor. Muzzin’s address offered a look at what measures city leaders have been implementing to improve their response to unexpected and future challenges. One of those items is the handling of unfunded capital equipment and facilities, which prompted the creation of a capital reserve fund to proactively plan and save for future equipment, facility maintenance and replacement needs.
In his address, Muzzin noted foundation that has been laid to fund improvements for failing streets and related infrastructure. He says the first layer of that foundation is a street millage previously passed by voters. Additionally, he says officials have been working with the city manager to implement a series of recommendations made to the city council’s fiscal realities task force to generate an additional $1 million in revenue that could be directed to streets. The recommendations are focused on generating new revenues through economic development and fees, in addition to reductions in organizational costs. Muzzin says he’s pleased to report they’re well on their way to reaching that goal within the next two to three budget cycles.
Muzzin says he’s most proud of council’s ability to face fiscal responsibilities head-on, but shared other accomplishments that he feels are also important, naming the adoption of the city’s comprehensive master plan in 2018, offering a variety of housing as there are four active housing projects underway in the area, and the evolution of city staff’s commitment to customer service and community engagement. The latter has been achieved says Muzzin by going to the people with information, as the city has returned to publishing a bi-annual printed newsletter and created a bi-weekly e-newsletter, and staff is also reportedly working on a weekly e-newsletter.
Muzzin did however reflect on certain challenges staff has faced over the past few years; namely addressing growing pension and retiree healthcare liabilities. The total combined unfunded pension and retiree healthcare liability is over $24 million and growing. Muzzin says the city was on an unsustainable path and so it was important to city council to address that challenge in “as balanced of a manner as possible”. Council made modifications to the benefits structure of non-union, public services and clerical employees, and made agreements with the city’s two police unions. Because of those efforts, Muzzin says officials have put the city in a much better position to manage the growing costs.
Muzzin believes all of their achievements have contributed to the city’s current state which he says is “undeniably strong”. (DK)