City Council Work Session  February 27, 2024

City Council Work Session 

February 27, 2024

Agenda Item III.1.  FY 2025-2029 City and Schools Capital Improvement Plan.

The lede from Tuesday’s Council Work Session is that the Council will need to eliminate a number of projects from the FY 2025-2029 City and Schools Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

Donna Witt provided “a view from 30,000 feet” (Faraldi) of the proposals coming from staff that show what projects will be in the proposal, and which will be eliminated.  Notably, the CIP will not include $15 million for renovations of Bass Elementary School.  This will cause considerable problems for the School Board as it moves forward with its redistricting and school closing plans.

Ms Witt explained that although the City still has debt capacity – the ability to borrow more money – its ability to service debt is limited.  This is because debt service is accomplished through revenue which has been reduced.  “Debt service grew year-over-year; organic revenue growth covered the increased cost” for more than 20 years. However, revenue to the city is down so the city must first service existing debt before taking on new obligations.  Credit rating agency encourages the City to continue using its line of credit to use ‘pay-as-you-go’ strategies and not incur additional debt.

Other factors leading to the elimination of projects include inflation in construction costs and high interest rates.


The CIP is divided into several sections. Buildings; Transportation; Economic Development; Parks and Recreation; Miscellaneous; Reserves; and Schools.

The difference between the adopted FY ’24-’28 and the proposed FY ‘25-’29 CIP budget is a more than 18.6 million dollars reduction.  

Building projects that will be included going forward are those that require a commitment from the City to garner future grants as a matching component, projects that are for building maintenance or security, pavement maintenance, or are of immediate need.

However, improvements to the library and construction of firing ranges for LPD are eliminated.

Transportation remains the largest category in the CIP and includes a large number of improvement and repair projects.  Funding for many of these projects is pushed off to the later years in the Plan.  Several projects are eliminated, notably improvements to the D Street/Rivermont intersection.  This drew attention because of the planned renovation and repurposing of the old Jones Library, a private project that seems to be delayed.  Four million dollars will move to help fund changes to the 501/221 interchange which continues to be a priority. 

Economic Development projects were relatively protected as this is where revenue growth occurs.  Projects include downtown streetscape improvements [anticipate pushback from Misjuns and Helgeson on this one!] to be done in conjunction with ongoing CSO work, development of the airport commerce park, and continued development of the Ivy Creek Innovation Park ‘pad-ready’ sites.  $10.6 million for “Downtown Development” is eliminated, including additional lighting along Bluffwalk and other items.

Parks and Recreation sees more than $8 million invested (no new appropriations) primarily for trails and parks, but loses funds for a new dog park, the restoration of the Firemans’ Fountain, and Miller Park pool renovations.

Miscellaneous projects proposed to be funded include radio replacement and fuel storage projects, but not a computer-aided dispatch system.  Reserve projects include maintenance items and snow removal.

Schools will see $9.952 million for paving, fencing, roofs, and cooling tower replacement.  However, schools will suffer $107.7 million eliminated, including the $15 million for Bass ES.  Other projects eliminated for FY 25-29 CIP are Linkhorne and Perrymont ES renovations, athletic facilities improvements and replacements, $1.2 million for electrical and mechanical reserves, gymnasium additions, and $3 million in security improvements. 

Discussion and Commentary

Misjuns again tried to blame the previously approved appropriation of $8 million for a downtown amphitheater for the need to eliminate money for school security projects.  [as of Wednesday evening, he continued this faulty line of argument on local news, actually wearing his MAGA hat!] Mayor Reed, supported by Donna Witt, again explained that there is no equivalency between the two sources of money; one-time surplus revenue cannot be used for recurring expenses over 5 years.  Mayor Reed noted that leveling the real estate tax resulted in reduced revenue, not the amphitheater.  [Council went beyond ‘leveling’ the tax rate and reduced it last year.] The ability to service debt is a result of reduced revenue, plain and simple.

Councilmember Dolan called out the republicans on Council, stating that they had brought this on themselves by reducing the tax rate for real estate.  The necessity for these reductions in the CIP is not just the result of inflation in construction costs and higher interest rates.  


Roll Call Comments

Councilmembers expressed sadness about the recent violence in Lynchburg.

Helgeson said the “culture of violence” is a result of permissiveness in schools. He blamed former Superintendent Scott Braybrand by name for doing away with year-long suspensions and intimated that surveys show students feel less safe.  He called for “stern action.”  He blamed the decline in enrollment and teacher resignation on increased violence.  He particularly directed his comments to the new members of the School Board (appointed by his fellow republicans on Council)  to take action to “protect the kids who behave.” 

Misjins echoed Helgeson and asked to pray for the recovery of a student injured in a fight at HHS.

Taylor said parents should be made responsible for disciplining their children.  (unclear what he means by this)

Faraldi called our teachers “the first line of defense” but we call upon them to feed, protect, counsel, and teach and it is too much.  He called for “a comprehensive look at what to do about violence in our schools and community.”  [what we citizens need is actionable ideas!]

Reed empathetically asked us all to “look at the commonalities of people” who are arrested, in detention, in alternative education centers, in jail, or in foster care. She said there is a desperate need for positive strong male mentorship and called upon churches (“on every corner”) and retirees to step up.

Faraldi briefly returned to agenda item V.5. Flag Display but deferred to a future date to discuss proposing regulations or guidelines for the display of flags on city property.