What level of government spending is Dublin City Council comfortable with?
That's the question council members will try to answer in drafting a debt policy, according to Vice Mayor Chris Amorose Groomes.
Council members will discuss policies related to city finance, particularly those related to creating a definition for a balanced budget, Groomes said.
As Dublin's population grows, the city needs to be driven by policy rather than by individual decisions, Groomes said.
Creating a level playing field and opportunities that are equal for businesses and residents is important, she said.
Policy discussion is slated to be part of council's two-day retreat Feb. 21-22 at the city-owned building at 5555 Perimeter Drive
The session Feb. 21 will start at 6 p.m.; the Feb. 22 session will begin at 8:30 a.m.
Dublin's councils over many decades have met at such retreats to focus on what's gone well, what could go better, policy review and new policies and vision, said City Manager Dana McDaniel.
City Council has asked staff members to identify as many formal and informal policies as possible so council members can determine which remain relevant, which require an update, which should be formalized and whether the polices are necessary, he said.
Any possible changes ultimately would return to City Council for consideration, McDaniel said.
"This is the first time in my experience that we have attempted to inventory all policies, look at them holistically and tried to prioritize a comprehensive review," he said.
Periodically reviewing policy is important to make sure they are updated as times change and the city evolves, said Councilwoman Christina Alutto. "The city has matured and grown so very much," she said.
Whereas the city has a policy for its general fund and a debt policy, a balanced-budget policy would help determine at what point expenditures and revenues are compared because the timing of purchases could affect the balance, Alutto said.
The city has no formal policy for a balanced budget; its annual operating budget has been prepared using conservative revenue estimates and realistic expenditures, McDaniel said. Most of the time, revenues end up exceeding expenditures, although 2018 was an exception because of capital purchases made throughout the year.
In addition to financial policy, council members also will examine policy related to the city's bed-tax grants, to explore whether the flat amount should increase or whether it should increase or decrease based on the local economy, Alutto said.
Council members award bed-tax-revenue grants annually to organizations that have a positive impact in the community, and the initiative has had a $200,000 budget for the last several years.
Another policy council members plan to look at focuses on the fee developers pay when they can't put the required amount of green space in a proposed development, Groomes said. The city uses that fee to purchase green space elsewhere in the city, she said.
But the cost per acre of green space can differ between suburban and urban areas, Groomes said, and the fee might have to increase in areas to reflect the cost of land.
Dublin requires certain green space to be set aside or dedicated to the city as a portion of residential development, McDaniel said. When it is determined that the intent of this green space requirement cannot be met, then the developer can pay a fee -- if approved by city officials -- in lieu of providing the actual green space.
Last year, council directed city employees to revisit the amount of fee charged, McDaniel said. As a result, staff has been reviewing property comparisons used in the appraisal process to ensure the appropriate fee is being charged, he said.
Council members also will examine several policies related to economic development, Groomes said.