Victoria Spirit Winter 2019 with photo of person hiking in woods during winter

A New Look

The city's quarterly newsletter, Victoria Spirit, unveils a new look with the November edition. In addition to a new size and format for easier readability, the Spirit aims to provide residents with current, useful information in a standardized content format.

Regular features include: city government meetings, local activities sampler and mayor's message. Look for the new issue in your mailbox within the next week, and get a sneak peak at the mayor's message below. We invite your feedback about the new Spirit at Gwen Campbell, Communications Manager.

From the Mayor

Wow.  What a difference from the old days.  The NEW Council and senior staff discussed and approved a strategic vision to help drive our City forward.  The Council also unanimously agreed to hire a truly OUTSTANDING City Manager, Dana Hardie, who brings a new level of experience and professionalism to our City’s operations.
 

Strategic Vision Objectives

In April, the Council and senior staff held 12 hours of strategic planning at City Hall.  I would encourage everyone to review and provide your feedback to the Council and Dana on the plans.  The full details are available on the City web site, but the four key objectives unanimously agreed to are listed here for your convenience. 
  1. Expand and Enhance Our Local Economy
  2. Adopt Guiding Principles
  3. Build Infrastructure
  4. Diversify Housing
Dana Hardie, City Manager’s Major Accomplishments
Since taking over as City Manager on 3 March Dana has taken the bull by the horns and hit the ground running!  It is difficult to list everything she and her team have done, but I wanted residents to know about some key accomplishments over the past five months.
 

New Finance Team Created

Dana Hardie created this team with Finance Manager Trish Pollock and City Clerk Cindy Patnode. The team immediately began reviewing how the city manages the taxpayers’ dollars.  To date, Dana has focused the new finance team and department heads on three areas.  Immediate costs savings; budget related operational changes and non-budget operational changes.  Changes and budgeting are now being tied to the Council approved Strategic Vision. 
Immediate Cost Savings
  1. Year over year cost savings found to date: $33,300
  2. One-time cost savings found to date:  $38,000

Budget Related Operational Changes

  1. Implemented a new budgeting process that now involves all department heads and adds accountability for budgets.
  2. Discovered City bonded for $1.7M (2015) for undergrounding work based on estimated cost, but project only cost $600K.  Remaining funds have been held in city accounts since 2015. This information was never explicitly brought forward to all Council members until now.  An additional $300K was used to bury the power line along the Steiger Lake Lane.  After $150K in bonding costs, roughly $650K is available for other projects.  The new team has made changes to try to avoid bonding for more than is necessary in the future.  This “found” money will be used with $200K from the park fund to buy the Wasserman Park land thereby avoiding having to borrow more money.
  3. Six different park and recreation accounts have now been consolidated into a single account for better transparency for the Public and the Council.
  4. Soliciting requests for proposals for professional services (IT, Healthcare provider) with more to come (Legal, Engineering and Auditing) to ensure city is getting the best value for the taxpayer’s money.
  5. Invoices now have to be tied back to a valid and authorized contract before being paid.
  6. Changed the City’s procurement process to require two or more quotes for all City purchases.
  7. Improved review and approval process of spending on City credit cards to ensure spending is cost effective and in the best interest of the City.  Implemented stronger monitoring and signed the City up for cash rebates of 1%.
  8. Transfers from old Street & Utilities funds of nearly $500K that not all Council members knew existed.  These existing taxpayer dollars can now be used to lower or avoid future bonding.
    1. $418,696      2014 Street Utility Fund
    2. $  12,625      2017 Street Improvement Fund
    3. $  64,385      2017 Street Improvement Fund
    4. $        436      2008 Bond fund

 Non-Budget Operational Changes

  1. Improved responsiveness to inquiries from residents.
  2. Holds one on one meetings with each Council Member and ensures equal access to all City information for each.
  3. Improved Council agenda format and staff reports to ensure better reports for the Public, Council and Committees.
  4. Implemented changes to improve the transparency of the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) process.
  5. Replaced Consent Agenda template language on Council Agendas to reflect what is stated in the state statue.
  6. Making improvements to information technology and audio-visual equipment for more effective operations.
  7. Working on a new, complete set of policies to govern City operations in line with leading practices and what is suggested by the League of Minnesota Cities.
  8. Has staff working on identifying ordinances that need to be updated, created or rescinded.

Conclusion

Dana Hardie (who is the Chief Administrative Officer of the City) and her new team have already transformed how City Hall operates and they continue to make improvements.  These improvements were and are critical to move the fastest growing City in Minnesota (By Percentage) forward.   What worked for a City of 2000 residents years ago, does not work for a City of 10,000.  Though the change process was difficult, we are now being positioned to have an effective and efficient City Hall as our city continues to grow rapidly both south and west.    
 
I want your input on the use of your tax dollars; the use of TIF; development proposals and what you want our parks, trails and downtown to become going forward.  As always, please feel free to write to me at the city:  tcfunk@ci.victoria.mn.us  I look forward to hearing from you and making sure your voice is heard!
 
Your Mayor
Tom Funk


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