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Mayor McBarnes hopes to see Prairie Creek Park open in 2019

BY SHARON BARDONNER - sbardonner@ftimes.com

Frankfort Mayor Chris McBarnes went on the offensive at the City Council meeting Monday night, laying out details of the city’s financial position in response to the city’s budget and spending being criticized broadly on social media.

McBarnes has also developed a series of four statements – the first of which appeared in Tuesday’s Times – to present his administration’s plans leading up to his March 1 State of the City address to be streamed live on Facebook.

McBarnes said from his first day in office he, the Board of Works and his department heads have prioritized the city’s financial well-being in any decisions made.

The city’s fiscal goals include long-term planning, upgrading the city’s infrastructure and each department’s equipment, technology and other resources through the use of a detailed annual capital improvement plan and making strategic investments to spur growth in assessed property valuations, he said.

When he took office in 2012, McBarnes said many facilities were falling apart and department resources, such as police cars, fire equipment and street department vehicles were completely depleted.

When McBarnes took office, the city held a cash balance of $1,646,309 in its general fund. Six years later, on Jan. 1, 2018, the city’s general fund posted a cash balance of $2,113,157, he detailed.

In 2012, the city’s cash balance was $5,237,387 across all the city’s funds.

Even with all of the capital improvements made, increases in compensation for public safety personnel and strategic investments in restoring Old Stoney and working with the county to launch the Ivy Tech – Frankfort site, he said, the city’s total cash balance when his second term ends in 2019 will be $5,306,585, which will include $2,437,308 in its general fund.

McBarnes also said the city’s cash reserve stands at 33.30 percent against the recommended 30 percent required for the best bond rating when borrowing. That reserve would allow the city to operate for 122 days if no additional tax revenue came in from the county. 

In 2012, the city’s tax rate was $2.04 per each $100 of assessed property valuation compared to $1.81 now, due mainly to the city’s annexation of the industrial park with its property values, McBarnes said. 

The city needs to renovate the existing police station or build a new one, and wastewater capacity issues must be addressed, McBarnes said. “We have a lot on our plate,” he noted.

However, based on the city’s financial position, he still believes the investment in the downtown amenity of Prairie Creek Park is manageable.

“This is doable,” he said, citing the $1 million in Tax Increment Financing funds coming into the Frankfort Redevelopment Commission annually. He also revealed that he has commitments of $575,000 from private citizens who believe in the project.

There would be no new taxes needed to support Prairie Creek Park, he explained. Instead, the initiative would be financed with RDC funds and private investments.

“I’m worried about leaving my kids with a stagnant community, with costs going up and property valuation not increasing,” he noted.

After the State of the City address on March 1, McBarnes will host a community summit on March 7 featuring Dr. John Cromptom, a distinguished professor at Texas A&M, who specializes in parks marketing and financing.

McBarnes also requested the city council hold a special meeting March 8, at which time he would announce all of the private donors and invite them to attend.

“I’d like for us to create a time line at the March 8 meeting with the plan to have a ribbon cutting for Prairie Creek Park at the July 2019 Hot Dog Festival,” said McBarnes.