Friday, August 16, 2013

Arlington Tomorrow Fund

On Wednesday of this week the Council met to discuss what should be done with the Arlington Tomorrow Fund revenues.  As you may know, the fund is comprised of original signing bonus' and gas well royalties.  The fund has been in existence for the last 5 years and is currently valued at 98 million dollars. 

Now the state of Texas has a Rainy Day Fund.  That fund will be capped at 30% of the state general operating budget.  The state general budget is so big that it will never get to that point.  So you will see the Governor make suggestions to the legislature for one time appropriations, like he did this year for water and transportation.  Using that as a yardstick, our general operating budget is just north of 200 million a year.  Therefore we could cap the ATF at 60 million.  I believe that almost all of the members of the Council are in agreement that the fund should be capped at 100 million dollars, with an increase annually to account for inflation.  We want to make sure that we maintain the same buying power twenty years down the road as we have today.

So this creates a dilemma.  The deposits are averaging 15 million a year into the fund.  The interest on the corpus (body of the fund) is 5% or 5 million a year.  So this creates a 20 million dollar a year opportunity for the city to invest in city infra structure.  Using 2 million dollars to scrape the La Jolla apartments could be a possibility.  Building a senior recreation center, putting in more sidewalks, or supplementing funding for a new library.  But who will make these decisions?  I know that I wouldn't want that responsibility without consensus of the entire Council.

So there is a question before the Council of how do we want to shape this decision making process.  It is important to have citizen input in this process.  Therefore, the current composition is very desirable, with two citizens and three Council members.  The oversight of the expenditure of public funds requires a majority of elected officials to be present.  Individuals cannot spend tax monies without going through a Congressional approval process at the federal level.  Another option would be to use the current composition as an advisory board, with final approval resting with the entire council.  So these are the questions that we have to ask ourselves, and hopefully we will come out the other end with a solution that speaks to a better Arlington and not just a few.

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