Good evening and thank you for coming to our second State of the City Address.
I want to thank you all for the privilege of being the Mayor of this mechanized, service-oriented organization called the City of Prattville over the past 2 years. As we gather here tonight, I want to start off by saying that Perception is not Reality, but Perception is Important. The perception was that we would not succeed. The reality is that two years ago, we were not going to be able to make payroll, but because we made difficult decisions and took a business-like approach to our situation, we were able to work toward the light.
With a never say never attitude and a mentality that failure has never been an option for this administration or this community, we pushed forward knowing that somehow we needed to spark the flame, stoke the coals not for us, but for the next generation. Ladies and Gentlemen, that light is now the light at the end of the tunnel and not the train.
My father told me once that he had met very few businesspeople that had not seen failure in some shape, form or fashion. The difference between success and failure is that you learn from all that you do. I can truthfully say that we have learned much; we have changed much. I have realized that for many, the perception of this City is viewed considerably through our departments and their actions.
Using the words of Andrew Jackson, "I feel that I was born for this storm but I wait to embrace the calm." We, as a community, have weathered this economic storm as well as can be expected, maybe better. It bears saying that without you, the Partners of Prattville; we could not have done so. When I say Partners of Prattville, I mean citizens of Prattville, county residents, county government, and our neighbors in the River Region.
I have objectives for us, you and I, to strive to be the best, most efficient municipality, the City that sets the example for full disclosure, for new programs, for new ideas, for operating with the inclusion of its businesses and taxpayers, our Partners of Prattville, being in a proactive ready mode, being ready for the future.
Thomas Jefferson said, "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government"...so I invite you to connect with your community, your government. We have established an open relationship with you that will continue as we move this great City forward. I challenge you to not only engage, but I also challenge you to challenge my 'No Excuses, Just Results' Team and me. Challenge us with ideas and help us with solutions.
A productivity study has shown that Parks and Rec has been recouping approximately 14-16% of its costs through their fees. With that study in hand, a new approach was needed. Taking a new approach to programs equals cost returns. We will continue to think outside the box. With some of these mindsets, our department heads and city employees have been able to come in under budget for fiscal year 2011/2012 by approximately $1.9 million. This benchmark is one we should be very proud to announce. We've changed our practices, our approach, and our mentality regarding spending. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
We have paid off $14.8 million dollars of accounts payable and long-term debt. Let me say it this way...we've been able to pay off 23% of our overall debt in 24 months.
We have replenished the employee group health care account that two years ago, was owed $1.8 million, only had $20,000 on hand, and now has a $2 million bank account balance.
We have paving projects scheduled for this year including McQueen-Smith Road, Sheila Boulevard and Wetumpka Street, to name a few. We are planning for the modifications needed for the 2010/2014 areas.
The Council and I are looking at additional cost-saving measures such as refinancing bonds to save $700K. We're replacing an archaic phone system, which will save us approximately $45,000 each year. We are also negotiating data rates for a significant savings. We are actively planning for the City's future, our infrastructure, and our reserve funds.
Our approach is hands on, not only by me, but also by us. Municipal government is here to serve, but we cannot be everything to everyone. We can be the conduits in which ideas and programs can be organized for the betterment of our community while delivering our core services: public works, environmental services, public safety, quality of life, and general government.
A role of government is to provide an environment for private enterprise to flourish. We are and will continue to focus on Economic Development from all directions, much like a wheel with a hub and spokes that cover all aspects that go into a successful community. By now, I'm certain you've heard that Jim Wilson & Associates recently leased 30,000 square feet to several new businesses at High Point Town Center. They're working hard for us and we expect more announcements in the near future. We've had a number of businesses open up in historic downtown in the past couple months. There are 4 ribbon cuttings on my schedule in the next 4 business days. We are seeing business growth and an increase in the number of building and remodeling permits being issued coupled with revenue being up for the 1st quarter. Now, that's exciting from both a private enterprise perspective and also for the financial health of our City.
I want to lead this community into the future, I plan to lead from the front, but I can also lead from the rear. There are times when a leader needs to know when to delegate and allow others to perform, others to lead. My goals for the quadrennium are to set a solid foundation for all our departments, for economic development, for our financial footprint in the future so they have sustainable and reachable goals.
We are a product of our environment and we have learned to evolve. We've learned, to control what you can control, improvise when you have to, and let the good Lord handle the rest. That's how we've gotten here today.
I see our citizens working with us, Council and myself, on committees that raise our accountability and benchmarks allowing us to meet our community's needs.
Some long-term goals are to find funding for a bridge from Highway 82 to our South Industrial Park that will assist in bringing more industrial, good paying jobs to Prattville. There have been long-term plans to widen McQueen-Smith Road and I will pursue funding for this to be done. Another important goal of mine is to have $3-5 million in our reserve fund by the end of this quadrennium.
My mid-range and short term goals are to continue to bring this great River Region closer together as Partners of Prattville - and to find ways to keep our city workforce competitively compensated, equipped, and modernized so they may help reduce costs while delivering quality services. Another is to get the biking and hiking trails moving, hopefully, with an archery course included, to complete the installation of the splash pad in America's Favorite Park, to bring our parks and ball fields up to a new level thus allowing for an increase in tourism, which, in turn, will increase revenue through lodging taxes plus promote a healthy family lifestyle.
We will continue our infrastructure upgrades and repairs...sewers, sidewalks, and streets, all part of economic development.
Wastewater and Sanitation, our Enterprise Fund Departments are doing well. Funding these departments off the revenue they collect for services rendered keeps them out of the General Fund, working smarter, not harder, but more efficiently, budgeting for tomorrow instead of being subsidized. I see other departments like Parks & Rec and Judicial having their own shoebox like enterprise fund accounts, but on a different level.
There will continue to be encouragement for our departments to flourish with an understanding of their future. An understanding that government and its departments must evolve for and with our community. It is vital that they understand they will be praised if they come in under budget and not suffer from the same, to think outside the box, to have an understanding that the perception of our community is viewed considerably through our departments.
We're here to make Prattville Better One Project at a Time. With your help, I know we will succeed because we are all in this together.
The key to our future is us...you, local businesses, county residents, city employees, citizens of Prattville, City Councilors and myself, all Partners of Prattville, communicating, working together, here and now with the changes we make and the foundation we lay toward our common future for our next generation, to promote for the common good or lay the building blocks for the future.
I want to leave you with my favorite one-liners: Faith, Family, and Friends...keeping them in our hearts and minds will help keep us focused, driven and humble.
In closing, I see retail growth, debt reduction, building permits, increased revenue, and with all this, I see a stronger and much brighter future for us than what we had two years ago. We can reach the targets and objectives that we have established with your help and your support.
Thank you for being a Partner of Prattville and for making our slice of southern heaven even better.
Thank you and good evening.
Bill Gillespie, Jr. Mayor, City of Prattville
Character Trait for November
Hospitality Cheerfully sharing food, shelter and friendship with others.