Last month we received the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau concerning the population of Jerome. As of April 1, 2010, the City of Jerome's population had grown to 10,890 inhabitants. This is a 40% increase over the 2000 Census count of 7,780 for the city. We attribute this growth to the success the City has had in attracting many new businesses and hundreds of jobs to the local economy in that time. And this growth was only possible because we have the infrastructure to maintain it, which has a direct impact on the city budget. There are three pillars to the city budget: operating supplies, personnel, and capital infrastructure. This month it is my intent to explain how infrastructure impacts the budget so that you can better understand the policy and priorities that determine how your tax dollars are spent in the City of Jerome.
Capital infrastructure makes up 40.14% of the budget (7.35% of it is for debt service payments). Infrastructure investments are very expensive and not very attractive to consider. Although it costs a lot up front, over time these projects can save the City millions of dollars. Infrastructure includes all city land and building facilities, the entire road system, the entire water distribution system, the entire sewer system, and the entire fleet of City vehicles and heavy equipment for Police, Fire, Public Works and Water Works Departments.
Just like when you buy a new car or truck, the initial cost is large, but then it becomes very affordable to run and maintain for a long time. Conversely, the older it gets, the more it costs to maintain and the less it performs the way it is supposed to. Sooner or later you are faced with the need to either completely rebuild what you have or replace it altogether. Today the City of Jerome finds itself in the unenviable position of having very old and deteriorated infrastructure that costs a lot to maintain. In fact, in certain areas, the City cannot even keep up on basic maintenance because it is in a constant state of crisis just trying to "put out fires" that crop up throughout the system. This is especially true of the water system, but also affects roads, sewers and buildings that the City is also trying to maintain.
So what can the City do about all this? The policy options are: 1) Status quo; throw more money, personnel, and resources at maintaining the existing systems as they are. 2) Invest in new infrastructure to replace broken, inadequate and obsolete portions of the systems and get back to a basic maintenance schedule. 3) Reduce services to match available resources, requiring the city to abandon certain performance standards based criteria that could impact public health, the quality and level of public safety, transportation, and other basic services. Those are the three choices facing your elected officials. In my opinion, option #2 is inevitible and option #3 is distressing to consider. What do you think? I welcome your thoughts and ideas on this important issue to our community. The City Council will be meeting next month for its annual strategic planning retreat to address how we are going to deal with these critical issues in the coming year.