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NLC budget focuses on investments in advocacy, technology.

A $17.3 million spending plan with new investments in advocacy and technology and no increases in member dues or registration fees will guide NLC's work during the fiscal year that begins October 1, 2003.

The NLC Board of Directors okayed the proposed operating budget last week at its meeting in New Haven, Conn. The budget projects $17.48 million in revenue and $17.32 million in expenditures to achieve a net of $158,678--which meets the Board's established annual goal of not less than $150,000 in income over expenditures.

NLC Second Vice President Anthony A. Williams, mayor of Washington, D.C., and chair of the Finance Committee, told the Board that NLC's financial condition is "very strong in making the investments in advocacy and technology possible while holding the line on dues and conference registration fees"

"NLC's investment in the headquarters building at 1301 Pennsylvania Avenue has proven to be a very valuable asset, which is helping NLC maintain its strong financial position during these tough economic times," Williams said.

The budget projects $1.3 million in revenue from NLC's 30 percent ownership of the headquarters building and rental income from subleased space. NLC became a part owner and prime tenant in the office building in 1978 on the front end of the redevelopment of Pennsylvania Avenue. Since then, Pennsylvania Avenue has become the business center of downtown Washington, leading to a dramatic increase in the value of NLC's ownership position and its subtenant rent profits.

The decision not to increase member city dues or conference registration fees--which was recommended in the Executive Director's budget and endorsed by the Finance Committee--came in conjunction with discussions about how to continue to recruit and retain member cities and maximize attendance at the two national conferences.

Since 1991, the Board has endorsed an annual 4 percent dues increase except in 2002, when new population rates from the 2000 census of individual cities produced across-the-board increases for many member cities. Conference registration rates have generally increased by about 2.5 percent annually.

Combined member dues and revenue from the two annual conferences account for 53 percent of the $17.5 million projected for FY 2004.

NLC President John DeStefano Jr., mayor of New Haven, appointed a special working group--led by First Vice President Charlie Lyons, select-man from Arlington, Mass and Board Membership Committee Chair Alicia Ping, mayor pro tem of Saline, Mich., to focus on membership recruitment, retention and benefits over the coming months. That committee will report back to the Board at its December meeting in Nashville.

The approved budget includes a 21 percent increase in spending directly related to advocacy and lobbying to continue to implement the action plan that the Board adopted in December 2002. That report concluded that "lobbying and advocacy are NLC's most important services, and they are essential to sustaining membership."

The primary focus during the coming year will be on creating a new grass-roots capacity to organize and mobilize city officials to produce good outcomes in Washington for cities and towns.

The adopted budget also provides funds to redesign NLC's website to create a portal for and about cities and to increase NLC's capacity for online communication with city officials.

Mayor Williams has led the renewed focus on technology, including launching a new chat function on the website to increase opportunities for direct connections between NLC leaders and officials from member cities on key issues. The first online leadership chat is scheduled for mid-August.

In other business, the Board endorsed a series of recommendations to strengthen the role of the NLC Advisory Council and make better use of the NLC Strategic Plan as a tool for member connections to program priorities. The recommendations came from a special committee led by Mayor Brenda Barger of Watertown, S.D.

One of the new functions that the Advisory Committee will assume--in addition to its ongoing commitment to addressing an emerging issue or topic identified by the NLC Second Vice President--is to guide a "trends and changes" assessment that will help shape future NLC agendas.

The Board launched that new role with small group discussions to identify both short- and long-term trends affecting dries and towns. The Advisory Council will continue the trends and changes discussion at its December meeting in Nashville.

Among the recurring trends identified in the Board discussion groups were changing demographics, growing wealth disparities and the dismantling of social service programs.
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Author:Becker, Christine
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 28, 2003
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