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Mayor & Council

Mayor Andy Hafen presents the State of the City 2014

Mayor Andy Hafen
City of Henderson
2014 State of the City Address
February 5, 2014
Green Valley Ranch Resort

Thank you. Thank you so much. And before I begin my Address, there are four individuals especially that I need to recognize. Two fine ladies and two fine gentlemen: Councilman Sam Bateman, Councilwoman Gerri Schroder, Councilwoman Debra March, Councilman John Marz. And I think they deserve a standing ovation for the work that they do.

You know, I have some of my family here with me today and I’m grateful for that. But I have one young lady that I especially have to recognize. For you see, we FaceTimed this morning. She’s my five-year-old granddaughter in the Indianapolis area, and I told her that I had a pretty important Address today, and that it was going to be streamed live to the Web. So Maris Kate Hafen-Gillespie, if you’re watching this, hello. If you can last the 30 minutes, that’s even better!

And thank you D. J. And thank you to all our great partners at the Henderson Chamber, and the wonderful staff here at Green Valley Ranch, and everyone who’s worked so hard to make this event possible today.

A special welcome again to all of our elected officials and dignitaries! We’re grateful that you would take time out of your busy schedules to join us.

We’re always happy for the opportunity to discuss the state of our city.

As we look back on the last few years, there’ve been some difficult times. But the city of Henderson has come through them as strong as ever. We’ve had to make difficult choices for sure, but we’ve come through leaner, more efficient, and with a vision of where we need to go for the future.

I once heard it said that today’s success is the result of yesterday’s plan. From my own experience I’ve certainly found that to be true.

The premier city we are today is no mistake. It’s the result of hard work, planning, innovation and risk taking. It’s the result of outstanding customer service, and providing premier amenities, infrastructure, programs, and services with a commitment to excellence in all we do.

That commitment is stronger today than ever. That is why the state of our city is strong and our future bright. Each of us must share a dedication to building that bright future for Henderson. And what I see today gives me hope.

That’s because I see in front of me men and women who are committed to the success of our community. People who have made an investment in our city; people who, I believe, share our vision for a strong, vibrant and successful Henderson. A Henderson that remains one of the best cities in America, one of the best places to live and to retire and to build a business. A city with nationally recognized parks, trails and recreation programs. An award-winning city that’s a leader in sustainability and technology. A vibrant city with a strong economy and an educated, healthy, thriving workforce. A city that remains one of the safest in America with nationally accredited police, fire and public safety.

There’s no doubt that the city we’ve created is one of the best in America today.

So the question before us is, “Where do we go from here?”

From my perspective, Henderson is at a crossroads. We stand at a point where we’ll soon have to make critical decisions to determine what kind of future we want to have.

We’ve seen examples of cities across the country that have suffered the ill effects of poor decisions made years ago, decisions that were made - or weren’t made - that have damaged the ability of those cities to effectively serve their residents.

We’ve all had to make very difficult choices over the last few years. They’ve been painful to make, but necessary. And as I look back on the decisions we’ve made, we’ve been responsible in how we’ve managed through the ups and downs.

We’ve been transparent and devoted to the idea that Henderson is - and must remain - a premier place to call home. We’ve built a place where we want to live, to put down our roots, to build our businesses, recreate, raise our families, and retire.

And we’ve done it in a remarkable manner.

Guided by the goal of being premier, and driven by our dedication to excellence, we’ve created a city where you receive a value for your tax dollar that is second to none.

To illustrate that fact, go back with me, if you will, 23 years ago to 1991. It was a time when postage stamps were 29 cents and a gallon of gas was around $1.14. The average cost of a car was around $16,000. Around that time, the city of Henderson’s population was right about 64,000 people and the average household income was about $28,000. The median price of a home was about $120,000 and the property tax was 71 cents per $100 of assessed value.

It was a whole lot cheaper back then to run a home, a business or even a city.

Now skip forward 23 years and let’s compare those costs today. In 2014 that postage stamp costs 49 cents. A gallon of gas is around $3.20 and a new car runs over $30,000. Our population is now over 270,000 and the median homes prices are in the area of about $190,000. The average household income is around $50,000.

And your property tax, in Henderson, is 71 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. Did you catch that?

Not many people realize that the city of Henderson has maintained the same property tax rate for 23 years. It’s hard to disagree, that the value we get as taxpayers for the rates we pay in Henderson is phenomenal.

In 23 years we’ve grown to more than 115 square miles and added hundreds of acres of new parks, trails, bicycle lanes and roadways. We’ve added thousands of new street lights, sidewalks, flood channels and other infrastructure. New police and fire stations, recreation centers and water treatment plants, all to serve a population that has grown by more than 205,000 people, and not a single property tax increase to pay for the increased costs.

And for that money you’ve gotten a city that has been recognized by the likes of Forbes, MONEY magazine and many other national organizations as one of the best places to live in America. One of the best places for families, and retirees, and businesses. A city that has been recognized nationally as one of the safest and most technologically progressive. One that has been recognized for our efforts to be sustainable, and use clean, renewable and efficient energy, and to have safe, clean drinking water.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is true value for your tax dollars.

So as we consider this tremendous value we get, you may be wondering, “How do we stack up to other cities?”

I think the answer may surprise you.

Not only have we enjoyed the same property tax rate for more than two decades, we have the lowest rate of any major entity in the state of Nevada. In Reno, the property tax rate is 96 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The Las Vegas property tax rate is set at $1.06 and North Las Vegas is $1.16 per $100 of assessed valuation. And Henderson’s rate is still 71 cents.

That is value.

That value is even more impressive when you add in the fact that Henderson has one of the lowest employee-to-citizen ratios in the valley. With 6.8 employees to every thousand, as a full-service city, Henderson has fewer employees per thousand residents than any municipality in [Southern] Nevada except North Las Vegas, and we were even below them until the recession.

But despite our already low numbers, we’ve had our share of workforce cuts as well. Since 2009, the city has decreased its full-time, non-public-safety workforce by 16 percent. Many of the positions vacated during that time remain unfilled, and many have been eliminated altogether. The cost savings to the city from that effort saves about a million dollars per pay period, or more than $24 million dollars annually.

We’ve worked hard to scale back and save, and we’ve created a Strategic Plan to help us target our efforts so that we’re focusing our limited resources in the most strategic areas for our future. Our Strategic Plan identifies major challenge areas for the next few years that we’ve combined into six key priorities for the city. Those key areas are: ensuring our financial stability, caring for mature neighborhoods, ensuring public service excellence, being wise users of environmental resources, maintaining critical infrastructure, and ensuring public safety.

Public safety, parks and recreation alone take up more than 70 percent of the city’s General Fund budget, so it’s essential we be focused and strategic on how we prioritize our efforts.

We’ve worked long and hard to be lean and efficient, looking for ways to stretch the value for your tax dollars. Our Strategic Plan will help us remain focused, as well as another recently introduced idea that will give us even more value to the city.

HQI, or the Henderson Quality Initiative, was the idea of our city manager, Jacob Snow. And Jacob is doing a fantastic job, by the way. And I think we’ll keep you around for a while!

Quite simply, HQI is a better way to do business. It’s a comprehensive, internal approach focusing on customer service, leadership, employee engagement, performance management, strategic planning, and process improvements to find better ways to provide value for your tax dollar.

In the first year since HQI was created, we’ve already seen more than $515,000 of savings through improving internal processes in contracting, purchasing, recruitment and other areas. We’ve increased our focus on customer service and hold ourselves accountable for our efforts. We’ve created incentives for employees to look for efficiencies where we can work smarter, employ technology and save [money].

A great example of the innovation this is inspiring came through the efforts of four employees from our Utility Services Department: Howard Analla, Adrian Edwards, Paul Gielgens and Steve Overby. They pursued a new method to reduce the use of ultraviolet disinfection in the water treatment process, which will save the city more than $90,000 annually in energy costs.

We’re proud of Howard and Adrian and Paul and Steve and all our employees who are constantly striving to find ways to save money and be more efficient.

We couldn’t do what we do without our city employees. They’re a major reason Henderson has been able to provide the tremendous value you receive for your tax dollars. Over the last six years, we’ve asked a lot of them, and will continue to ask a lot of them.

Our non-represented employees have taken pay cuts anywhere from six to 11 percent. They’ve given up many of their benefits and are in the middle of a classification and compensation study that will likely change the way we compensate new employees that is more in line with market conditions as they exist today.

We’re eliminating sick and vacation time in favor of a more sustainable “paid time off” model. That will eliminate the huge sick leave and vacation balances that public employees amass, and are paid out when they retire or leave public employment. We’ve frozen merit pay and Cost of Living Adjustments, decreased overtime, and increased employee’s share of healthcare and retirement costs.

Our represented employees have been great partners in this effort too, giving up many of their contractually bargained benefits and COLAs as well.

All total, our employees have given us more than $49 million in concessions since 2010. Thank you.

I know that many of our union representatives are here today, along with many of our other employees. And I’d like you to stand so we can thank you all for the great work you do. Please stand. Thank you.

I know many of our employees are watching this online. I hope they stood up and gave themselves a pat on the back, too.

We’ve reduced their numbers, given them more work to do, and required them to work harder, smarter and more efficiently, and they’ve risen to the challenge. They’ve worked hand-in-hand with us to get the city through tough times.

Jacob and his staff do a phenomenal job and we couldn’t be more grateful for the ways they continue to find and create value for your tax dollars.

Over the last six years we’ve cut more than $127 million from our city’s budgets. We’ve reduced staff, cut benefits, consolidated jobs and departments, found efficiencies, leveraged technology, and done everything else we can do internally without impacting programs or services to the community.

But there are tough choices to be made at this crossroads we’re approaching.

Over the past six years, we’ve watched our revenues steadily decrease as our population has continued to increase. In a recent presentation by economist Jeremy Aguero, he pointed out that due to the realities of the new economy, operating costs will continue to outstrip revenues, despite the best efforts of local governments.

That is certainly consistent with what we’ve seen in this valley.

Our Consolidated Tax is still lower than what we saw in the early 2000s, and our Property Tax revenue has dwindled to levels not seen since 2005. That fact is particularly important when you consider the caps placed on property taxes, which further limit our ability to recover at a rate commensurate with the normal growth that’s now occurring. In some areas of Henderson, we’ve seen reductions of more than 50 percent in property tax revenues, and anticipate that it will be 25 years before we see a return to normal levels.

In addition to the many cuts and changes I’ve already discussed, the city has also used strategic reserves to help balance our budget over the past six years. We’ve extended the life of vehicles, deferred capital projects, cut operating costs, refinanced our debt and undertaken a variety of other measures to maintain our city.

But at the crossroads we’re approaching lies the question of: Do we want to continue to make the investment to be premier, or do we kick the can down the road, so to speak?

As we look ahead, we have a critical need to reinvest in the infrastructure of our city. We anticipate a $17-million-dollar annual need to adequately meet our capital needs. Costs to reinvest in maintaining more than 820 miles of pavement on our roadways and in our neighborhoods. Costs to maintain traffic signals and street lights to keep us safe and keep traffic flowing. Costs to maintain aging buildings like our Valley View Recreation Center, where operations were shut down recently for about a week, because thieves broke in and stole electrical components. Electrical components that couldn’t be replaced and had to be rebuilt from older parts because the systems are so outdated.

Other costs include money to replace our aging fire trucks, police cars and other city vehicles that have had their lives extended while being used to respond to an ever increasing number of calls-for-service. It includes money to replace aging technology, and to invest in replacing an outdated crime lab to do blood and drug testing, a place that is essential to our ability to solve crimes and keep our ranking as one of the safest cities in America.

We need to reinvest in these vital areas if we are going to continue to be America’s premier community. I think it’s well worth the investment, and I’m sure you do as well.

To help us look at ways to find that revenue, the city created the Special Budget Ad Hoc Committee. This group of 21 men and women have worked tirelessly for months, in public meetings with staff, examining our budget. We’ve opened our books to them, and asked them to lend us their expertise to find ways to cut additional costs, focus on core services and raise additional revenues. They’ve looked at our programs and services. They’ve pored through hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of presentations and financial figures. They’ve asked very difficult, probing questions and forced the city to stretch and look for additional ways to add value to your tax dollars.

Many of these men and women are here today, and I’d like to recognize them for the tremendous work they’ve done. I want to personally extend my thanks to them for helping us make some of the tough choices that will help guide our path for the future. So, will the members of our Ad Hoc Budget Committee please stand? I know they’re right down here in front. Please stand. I think they deserve a round of applause. Thank you.

You know, they’ve wrapped up their work and they’re going to be prepared to make their recommendations at our next city council meeting. And I look forward to hearing that report, and I look forward to working with them and our community to evaluate and implement those recommendations. That work will be essential as we move into the future.

The path we are on is bright, and I think everyone here would agree that it is one we ought to continue to pursue. There are great opportunities ahead, and many lie just around the corner.

Recently I joined several of my council colleagues in a groundbreaking for two parks in the 1,500-acre Inspirada master-planned community. We are thrilled to see work there moving forward again. When it’s finished, Inspirada will have about 8,500 homes and feature an 85-acre system of parks, trails and open spaces.

Nearby at the Henderson Executive Airport, we recently celebrated the ground breaking of an incredible new 300,000-square-foot distribution center for FedEx Ground. We’re excited for FedEx’s success and for their choice to expand right here in Henderson. And with the progress of our 500-acre Limited Transition Area, we expect some announcements soon about more great businesses to join FedEx in that prime area near the Executive Airport.

Another business we’re very excited about moved in a few months ago along Green Valley Parkway in the Green Valley Corporate Center. Barclaycard US, the credit card division of Barclays, has opened operations in Henderson, with plans to hire 400 new, full-time employees this year. And even more exciting is that their plans include growth of up to 1,000 employees when staffing is completed in the next few years.

And just across the freeway we’re excited to welcome construction of the new 170,000-square-foot Lifetime Fitness Center. That’s the huge new building you see just west of here along the freeway.

Not far away to the east is VadaTech, a cutting-edge developer of technology systems. They’re completing work on their new 70,000-square-foot building to house the company’s headquarters, manufacturing, research and design.

And a bit further east, we’ve welcomed the Flowers Baking Company, the No. 1 producer of [packaged baked] goods in America. Flowers recently chose Henderson to open their new facility, which will employ 60 staff and produce the “Nature’s Own” line of baked goods, which just so happens to be the No. 1 selling brand in the United States, manufactured right here in Henderson!

And just next door at the Nevada State College, we recently joined Governor Brian Sandoval at the groundbreaking of two new buildings on that campus. The Nursing, Science and Education Building, and the Student Activities and Administration Building include approximately 120,000-square feet on the college’s 500-acre main campus. We’re excited to see the growth of the Nevada State College and to see the growing numbers of nurses, educators and professionals, who are joining the workforce, and who were educated at NSC.

We are grateful to the Governor and so many others there who share our passion for education. Whether through our model of requiring land for schools from developers, supporting literacy through the APPLE Partnership, or the myriad other ways we’ve worked to support education at all levels, we know how vital it is to our future.

And that’s why I’m so happy to tell you that CCSD Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky, who was a partner with us in the creation of the APPLE program, now has plans to expand this Henderson program valleywide. He’s working with the other mayors to bring this successful effort to families and schools throughout the valley.

In fact, I’m told Mayor Goodman, who’s also a huge champion of education, has now incorporated the APPLE Partnership into their Safekey programs to help increase literacy rates in Las Vegas schools.

Education is key to our future success and we will continue to do all we can to support it at all levels.

That’s why we were so pleased recently to celebrate the completion of the Roseman University of Health Sciences 18,000-square-foot laboratory expansion. Roseman offers one of many choices for our residents to further their education, especially in health related fields. We’re grateful to have Roseman as part of the greater system of higher education facilities that call Henderson home.

And Touro University also has a $2.5-million-dollar expansion that will help enhance their programs to serve the community and help educate the best and brightest young minds in medicine. I attended the groundbreaking for that expansion just last week, and I’m excited for Touro and for what that groundbreaking will mean for them and for us as a community.

We understand that access to quality health care is essential for the quality of life for all our residents. That’s one reason we were so excited to finally realize the sale of 158 acres of land to the Union Village Project two weeks ago. Hundreds of hours went into creating the owner participation agreements with Union Village and their primary tenant, Valley Health System.

The Union Village project is expected to be the first Integrated Health Village in the world and is expected to generate 17,000 jobs, and billions of dollars in tax revenues for the local and state economies. Union Village is described as the top healthcare building project in the United States by Health Facilities Management and is a visionary model for health care. As currently planned, it will offer a world-class hospital complex and health center, residential, entertainment and specialty retail space, a senior retirement community and a civic and cultural arts center integrated into a master-planned community.

There’s still a lot to do with this project to reach fruition, but the completion of the OPA’s and the land sale were huge milestones for us and we’re excited for the progress we’re seeing.

There are other projects nearby that are also very exciting.

Last year I mentioned a venture just across the street from Union Village called Cowabunga Bay. Cowabunga Bay water park ran into some delays that prevented their opening last year. But if you drive by today, the slides have arrived, concrete has been poured, the buildings are taking shape and landscaping is going in. I’ve met with the owners, and they assure me that they’re on track and the first passes will be going on sale soon!

I’m also pleased to announce that we are underway with the long awaited extension of Galleria Drive to Lake Las Vegas! We’ve seen… (I’m sorry I had to chuckle a little bit, but it’s pretty important in our family.)

We’ve seen great things happening at Lake Las Vegas. Work is going on at Reflection Bay and with the recent green grass agreements with the golf courses, it will help make more public open space and revitalize the landscape of that beautiful community.

I’m also excited to announce that Lake Las Vegas is the venue for a new agreement the city has signed with the Silverman Triathlon. This deal secures the city of Henderson and Lake Las Vegas as the host for this world-class Ironman event for the next five years. The new agreement also opens the competitive field to Henderson residents to compete for the very first time. The Galleria Drive project will provide another important ingress and egress to Lake Las Vegas for that event, so we’re excited that the construction is moving ahead and will be completed before the end of the year.

Galleria Drive will also provide connectivity for another of Henderson’s newest and most exciting projects called Cadence. Cadence is a 2,200-acre community being developed in our Eastside Redevelopment area by the LandWell Company. They’ve broken ground on a new 10,000-square-foot office building near Lake Mead and Boulder Highway, and from what I understand they expect to begin home sales this summer.

At build out, Cadence will provide more than 13,000 new residences with 450 acres of beautiful new open spaces for our community. It will include a new 50-acre central park, a 100-acre sports park, 10 neighborhood parks and 30 acres of trails, which will connect with the Las Vegas Wash Trail and the River Mountain Loop Trail. Cadence will bring a whole new dimension to the eastside and downtown redevelopment areas.

The proximity to downtown will open up new and exciting opportunities all along Water Street, one of our most exciting areas of focus for the city. Water Street is home to some of our signature events like the Sons and Daughters of Erin St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the SuperRun Car Show, WinterFest and our Heritage Parade and Festival.

We have a very engaged and passionate group of downtown business owners and we’ve been working with them to help revitalize that area. We’re investing a lot of time and resources meeting with business owners, community stakeholders, staff and investors who are interested in helping us achieve our vision.

We’ve met as a redevelopment agency and are working with the very talented people at Tate Snyder Kimsey architects to develop a vision for Water Street. And in the coming months we hope to have some very exciting news regarding our plans for that area. Water Street is at the heart of our history, and we’re committed to helping return it to the centerpiece it once was in the city.

The developments like Cadence and Union Village going on across the east side will have a great impact on downtown. And the efforts to provide walking and bicycle connectivity throughout the area will be important as we attempt to provide even greater access for residents to the great amenities throughout the city.

We have miles of great walking and bike trails, and we’ve built extensive bicycle lanes on roadways throughout the city. We have outstanding cycling events like our Bike Swap and Ride, Crazy Spokes and Stroll n’ Roll that encourage our residents to get out and walk or bike and enjoy the incredible amenities our city offers.

These types of events are very important to us as we pursue our goal of being the first community in Southern Nevada to receive the national “Bicycle Friendly Community” designation. We have a wonderful group of community members and city staff who have been working on these and other great community “Bike Henderson” initiatives. Thanks to all their hard work, I am pleased to announce that the city will be submitting our application to receive that national “Bicycle Friendly Community” designation within the month.

We are very grateful to the good men and women who volunteer so much of their time to help in every corner of our community. From our Special Budget Ad Hoc Committee to our Bicycle Advisory Group, and everything in between, we have a great, incredible wealth of volunteer partners who work tirelessly to help us be the city we are.

In fact, if there are any of you here who serve on a board or commission, or who have served on a board or commission, please stand up so we can recognize you. Thank you. I know there are a lot of shy people out there because we have a lot of volunteers in our community.

You are part of what’s made us great as a city. You help add that tremendous value to Henderson that has made us one of the best cities in America.

You are part of the 270,000 different individuals who collectively make up the fabric of one of the greatest, safest cities in America, in a city where a little investment as a tax payer yields extraordinary returns. It is a city at a crossroads, but with incredible city potential. I’m sure we will do what we need to do. It is a city where good things are going to happen and good people are making them happen.

It’s a place to call home, and I look forward to working with each of you in the coming years to make sure it remains that way for many years to come.

Thank you.

 

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