Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Question ...

Why is the city of Concord buying two Chevy Tahoes SUVs and a new police cruiser during a near-economic depression?: ["RFP proposals"].
So, $86,000, for new cars for the police department ... at a time when the city is considering laying off cops [or keeping positions vacant].
Granted, this is capital budget item. Most of the time, these things are separate from operating. And, the life of a police cruiser is amortized over a number of years. As well, as we all know, the cost of a government employee is more than just the salary - there are benefits, pension contribution, etc. But in dire times, the government should make due with what it has, not blow tens of thousands on new SUVs.
Or, think about this way: If you combine this money [$86K] with a nice, completely overdue cut in the cable media access budget [say $120K, or even more ...] and then charged for leaf pickup [$200K or more] the city would have about half what the bag tax would bring in!
Clearly, it is time to set some priorities.


Anonymous said...

I have emailed you, 2x about joining the group, is it because my husband is on the school board? Am I barred?

Anonymous said...

Tony, very good question asked. Was it cost effective to replace cars;Fleet maintance should include all costs to come up with a bottom line that saves money.
A 0% tax rate for 2010 should flush out all extra spending. This will give everyone a chance to see where all the money goes. I think the budget process starts tonight and the Council has several months to decide on what will be funded.

Tony said...

Thanks for reading and posting.

If you like this question, there is more coming. :-)

First, "Anon8:52," which I assume is Mrs. Fleming, I haven't received any emails from you about joining CTA. However, keep watching this space for more details.

To "Anon11:03" - you may be correct about that. But I wonder if the 0 percent tax rate is realistic or, frankly, a trick to scare everyone.

No one, not even me, expects municipal, regional, state, or federal spending to not go up some amount each year. It would be nice if government didn't but it isn't realistic. Everything goes up. The key for me is whether or not it goes up 3 percent, 6 percent, or 17 percent.

Obviously, in an economic collapse, keeping as close to 0 percent is best. So many people in the private sector are getting hammered and having to live with less. If those of us in the private sector have to live with these conditions, so should the public sector.

I personally support government entities living within what the tax cap proposing - whatever the CPI is for the previous year. This year, that would be 4.1 percent. In future years, it could be less or more. Granted, when it appears on the ballot in November, the tax cap will only cover the city of Concord side of the budget. But after it is approved, we’ll work on the others, in order to make Concord affordable again.

My fear, however, when city officials float 17 percent deficits and then state that they will propose a 0 percent budget, is that it will freak so many people out that they will be clamoring for taxes to preserve services.

It's called "The old Kevin White trick" - release shocking and dire details about the budget proposing a godawful increase in an effort to get the rabble to accept a lower amount - which is the amount you really wanted them to accept in the first please.

As the fable goes, the Mayah of Boston in the 1970s proposed a 24 percent tax increase. Everyone freaked out about it for weeks and weeks. People were furious and it was the talk of the town. Then, after a bit of time, the Mayah held a news conference to calm everyone down, letting them know that taxes were only going up 12 percent. The public, breathing a sigh of relief, never realized until much later that the Mayah only wanted 12 percent in the first place.

If our city officials are planning on doing this, by floating a 0 percent budget instead of a realistic budget increase [like the tax cap proposal], it is just flat out wrong. To trick the public only to end up taxing them 6, 7, or 8 percent more, and then saying "The public has spoken because we scared the sh*t out of them ..." is repulsively manipulative. This emotional response doesn't get to the heart of the matter: What is reasonable, affordable, and just, in the middle of an economic collapse. It also doesn’t address the issue of what the city should be doing and what it shouldn’t be doing. I truly hope that our city officials don't have this in the back of their heads but I won’t be surprised if this is the plan for a 0 percent budget.

In closing, I’ll say this: The key to government budgeting is to start from $0 each and every year and build up to what is available. If government did this, it would find that 1) It doesn’t need to do all the things it does, and 2) It would find more funds to do other things it should be doing or doing better.