Council Retreat Recap–Day 1 & 2

City Counselors

Greatness doesn’t happen by accident.  Since 2011, the Geneva City Council has hunkered down for one cold weekend in January to talk about where we’re headed for the year.  It’s their way of giving staff a roadmap, so that there should be very little room for guessing in terms of our allocation of effort.

This year, we’ve convened as a Council and staff at the campus of the Geneva Housing Authority’s administrative offices.  We’ve taken over all of their meeting space to discuss 2016 financial and operational performance, get some operational and guidance for the year, and look at Council operations to hone those efforts to meet constituent expectations.  Two days are in the books, and they were super-productive:

State of the City

On Thursday night, I set out to provide City Council and the public with an overview of 2016’s financial performance.  The presentation will be up on the City website (and referred from 47 Castle Street) this week, but in a nutshell, the City is in fantastic shape from a financial and operations perspective.  The General Fund ended its second consecutive year with an operational surplus, while the Water and Sewer Funds both ended ahead of financial expectations.  Operationally, our departments crushed it as well, with acquisition of millions of dollars in grant funds to support City amenities, lots of road construction, three great park projects, and a ton of community engagement by our police and fire departments.  The bulk of our performance measures are pointed in the right direction, and we have set a course to meet the vision of the community’s adopted strategic vision.

Comprehensive Plan Implementation

As you’ll recall, the community completed work on our first comprehensive plan in nearly 20 years this past fall.  The plan was adopted by Council and staff is now seeking to implement its vision.  In this session we worked with City Council to develop implementation strategies around a business ideology known as the “triple bottom line.”


Triple-Bottom-Line management suggests that the aggregate of our efforts should move the needle in Geneva from an economic, environmental, and social perspective.  The comprehensive plan is a perfect fit for this philosophy, as its tenets break out into those three bucket succinctly.

City Council embraced the ideology, and directed staff to begin measures to use the concept in budget development, effort allocation prioritization, performance management, and reporting.  Staff will begin work on this immediately.

Debt Financing

Throughout the 2017 budget process, Council expressed an interest in getting a deeper understanding of the City’s debt position.  In this session, Chief Financial Officer Adam Blowers provided an overview of Council’s debt policy (found in the Appendices of the City’s budget), provided an overview of our constitutional debt limit (of which the City stands at less than half), an overview of our current debt profile, and a forecast of debt projects.  City Council charged staff with including possible public projects from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and setting a work session for late March to discuss amendments to the current debt policy to provide for comprehensive plan implementation, while being mindful of the total cost impacts of debt financing.

Leveraging Real Property Assets

Another hot topic for 2017 was how the City manages its real property inventory.  I provided City Council with an overview of our current property evaluation inventory, disposal methods for each type of property, and a property inventory.

Not for Profit Partnerships

City Council heard from three key not-for-profit partners to gain a better understanding of the long term sustainability challenges of these organizations, understand existing overlaps in recreational programming between the NFPs and City programs, and give thought to how we can deepen our relationships beyond simply contracting for services each year.  In response to the thoughtful exchange of ideas, the groups agreed to put together a working group made up of several City Councilors and Board members from these agencies.  The working group would be charged with setting near term collaboration goals, and evaluating strategies for long term sustainability for these critical community partners.

Today City Council turns its focus inward to look at Council operations.  Great presentations are on the horizon regarding the use of executive sessions, presented by the City Attorney’s Office; practical applications of the Code of Ethics, presented by the Board of Ethical Review; insights from the City’s 11 neighborhoods, presented by neighborhood leaders; and communications methods with Council’s constituents, presented by the City’s Director of Communications and Engagement, Rhonda Everdyke.

Another packed day on the horizon!  All sessions are open to the public, so come on down to 41 Lewis Street and listen to where 2017 will take us!


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