Master Plan Provides Order in Denton County’s Capital Improvement Planning
In business, customers, employees and investors alike want to see results – especially good ones. It also helps to show them a plan for the future.
“They like to see that you have a plan – especially for big-ticket items – whether it’s two, five or 10 years down the road,” says Denton County Judge Mary Horn. “And not only that you have a plan, but that you’re following it and following it on time.”
Capital Improvement Plans (CIP) often fit that bill, usually outlining four- to six-year goals for capital projects and equipment purchases, scheduling those purchases and even identifying financing options. Master plans, working within a CIP, are used as a framework for project requests that go into the CIP itself.
Horn became county judge in 2002 and found no master plan in place for Denton County. For a county in the midst of a population explosion – 41 percent growth from 2000 to 2007 – it left the door open to budget surprises as county officials tried to keep pace with demand for services including roads, buildings, technology and even county jail facilities. Implementing a planning process gave all department heads some input into their individual needs.
“You can’t have that kind of growth without a corresponding demand for services, and it was really a guessing game when it came to planning for the future,” Horn says. “We needed to communicate better as to what each department could foresee.”
Denton County’s Capital Improvement Program documents are now available on-line.
A CIP, such as the one used by the city of Victoria, typically includes:
- a list of the capital projects or equipment to be purchased;
- a project ranking, in order of preference;
- a project financing plan;
- a construction completion timetable; and
- project justification.
Victoria’s Comprehensive Plan is also available on-line.
Additionally, a five-year capital plan helps:
- terminate the ad hoc policy of allocating resources to capita projects without regard to long-term impact on a government’s available reserves;
- assure that the most important projects obtain funding;
- integrate budgeting for day-to-day services and activities with budgeting for capital improvements;
- assure that the most appropriate funding method is selected; and
- improve project planning and timing.
Denton County’s commitment to its CIP has also helped boost the county’s bond rating from AA to AAA, making it one of only six Texas counties carrying the AAA rating.
Ultimately, the Denton County CIP has helped open communication lines among departments and has guided the county’s budget officer, auditor and commissioners court through the budgeting process.
“It’s amazing what you learn when you have a meeting and someone comes in and says ‘Well, you know, in a couple of years we’re going to need…’ and you say ‘No, we didn’t know that,’” Horn says. “Getting together to communicate and plan is vitally important.”
Strategy for Master Planning Success
According to the Government Finance Officers Association’ recommended practices in Economic Development and Capital Planning:
- Create a capital planning committee with bylaws
- Inventory existing capital assets
- Evaluate previously approved, unimplemented or incomplete projects
- Assess financial capacity
- Solicit, compile and evaluate new project requests
- Prioritize projects
- Develop a financing plan
- Adopt a capital improvements program
- Monitor and manage approved projects within the CIP
- Update existing/ongoing capital programs
To view PDF documents, download the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader.
For more information, refer to The Role of Master Plans in Capital Improvement Planning (33 KB, PDF).