Woodstock to plan for future projects

Woodstock’s capital projects plan shows the town could make $9.3 million in improvements over seven years without raising taxes.

Town Manager Reid Wodicka explained Friday that as Woodstock pays down old loans it can then borrow money to embark on new major projects. Town Council and the Planning Commission are using this approach to work on the Capital Improvements Plan for 2016-2022.

No money has been budgeted for any of the projects listed in the plan, Wodicka said. Council decides which projects to fund when it adopts a budget.

“This is certainly not a done deal and ultimately it’s their plan and there may be changes, whether it be for projects going in or out,” Wodicka said.

Mayor Jeremy McCleary said he expects Town Council to take action to adopt the plan once the Planning Commission makes its recommendations.

“The hope is to avoid the need for any increased revenue through taxes,” McCleary said. “If you didn’t have a long-term plan like this, the fear would be that you could theoretically take on too much at one time and then that would result in the need to raise taxes.”

Staff members began working on the Capital Improvements Plan about a year ago once Town Council adopted the Strategic Plan. Woodstock has had capital projects lists before but this marks the first time the town has connected a financial plan to the program. Also, the plan covers a seven-year period rather than the typical five years typical.

“The idea behind all of this is very much a new direction in the way that we manage our finances and our resources here,” Wodicka said. “So we see this as a very tremendous change in our governance model where we’re thinking about the long-term with respects to our investments.”

The town might have to revise the financial data in the plan from year to depending on the economy and growth, Wodicka explained.

Per the plan, the town would provide $712,000 in funding for fiscal 2016 for projects in all categories. That amount would increase to $3.37 million in fiscal 2017 but decrease in subsequent years until the fiscal 2022 when funding would rise again to $3.7 million.

“It’s a really fortunate time for us to be making a capital plan and to take advantage of the retiring debt that does exist, and it was structured years ago in that way so it would retire and we’d be able to make some investments,” Wodicka said.

Woodstock would pay for projects in the plan through the issuance of general obligation bonds, utility connection fees with cash on a pay-as-you-go basis.

The draft calls for the town to proceed in fiscal 2022 with the renovation of the former Woodstock High School into the municipal office building at an estimated $2.5 million. Town workers have begun to gut the building in preparation for future renovations. But substantial construction wouldn’t happen until 2022.

“In a perfect scenario, I’d like to see it being done sooner than that,” McCleary said. “I do like, though, that it fits in the plan to where we wouldn’t have to raise taxes.”

The mayor noted that the town has a 10-year window in which it must at least begin renovations to the building, per an agreement reached between the town and Shenandoah County.

The plan addresses projects in three categories: Neighborhood connections and amenities that includes the school rehabilitation; infrastructure that covers improvements to utilities and the water treatment plant and tools to do the job consisting of vehicle and equipment replacement.

“Realizing that in order to take advantage of the capabilities that [employees] have, we know that we need to make sure that we’re investing in proper equipment so that they can do for us what we hope they’re going to do.”

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com