Monday, April 13, 2009

Last chance on fee increases?

I missed this yesterday, while enjoying the Easter holiday, but it looks like tonight will be the last chance for residents to comment on potential fee increases: ["Last chance to weigh in on Concord fees"].
There are many problems with this.
First, we haven't seen the FY10 budget yet. So, how do we know that the city needs these fees? Sure, we know that there will be multimillion dollar deficits. But we also know that there will be cuts. But how can you raise fees when you don't know what the exact budget is?
Second, there has been a lot of talk about this supposed 0 percent increase. Mayor Jim Bouley and others have said that they have asked the city manager to put together a budget that has no property tax increases. In order to do that, they say that all departments are starting from $0 and building themselves up from there. This is called zero-based or zero-sum budgeting, depending on your definition.
In order to work towards a zero-based budget, you don't worry about the revenue side. You start from zero and build the departments you need. From there, revenue is raised to fund the budget. With zero-sum budget, coming from the zero-sum game concept which means that revenue can't just be created out of thin air, you start from zero and work your way up to what you have available for revenue.
But how can you do any of this and raise fees along the way? You can't, unless you already have a plan in place and you are trying to budget for that plan. This really makes me wonder if the city is truly budgeting from zero or not.
An example would be the bag tax. The city knows what the difference between this year's and last year's trash collection will be, as an estimated. They need to raise the difference from last year to this year. Instead of raising taxes by 3 percent, they created the bag tax [although the extravagance of left collection remains free].
A better way of doing this it would seem would be to release the budget, figure out what most people are willing to pay for via higher fees and taxes, and then raise fees and taxes accordingly - not raise fees and taxes beforehand.
A number of us have recommendations on what should get cut and how the city can do business more efficiently. While some people have been nice enough to listen, I have serious doubts that any of our "bright ideas" will be taken seriously or implemented as public policy. The ideas haven't been taken seriously in the past, why would they now?


Anonymous said...

Let's hope that the council, in an election year, makes every effort to seek out and incorporate any truly bright idea that citizens have. The manager and council have made it clear that this is not a "business as usual" year. Unfortunately by waiting till mid-May for the manager's budget, this give the public and the council little time to react before the council's June budget approval.

Mark Coen said...

Tony, It would be helpful to the process if you could post the ideas that you have to cut the City Budget. Looks like there will be a decrease in revenue of $4 million plus dollars. At least half due to the States budget. This is almost 10% of the operating Budget. What are your ideas to reduce spending $4 million?

Mark Coen
City Councilor at Large

Tony said...

Thanks Anon for chiming in. I agree. Waiting until mid-May gives the public little time to work with anything. It will already be a done deal.

Hi Marc, thanks for commenting as always. As you know, I don't have a $4M solution. But I have spent years trying to influence the process to little or no avail. In fact, I have been attacked for making legitimate statements about the budget in the past. I have a slew of ideas ... some that I have already spoken publicly about; some not.
But instead of having things shot down now, I'm going to wait for the manager's budget to be released. After that, I will spend a day going through it line by line and will submit a number of ideas to the council for consideration.
In the end, the council will probably reject those ideas, as they have in the past. But at least I tried.

Anonymous said...

......"in the end, the council will probably reject those ideas, as they have in the past. But at least I tried" Tony

You sound a little self defeating. Do you have anything positive to say about city government?

Tony said...

"Self defeating" or open and honest about the current state of consensusitis on the council?

With the exception of a few, who shall remain nameless, the councilors are nice individual people.
I can say that my councilor, Rob Werner, is a good guy. Concerned about a lot of things and a good conversationalist. Not very good at constituent services and doesn't respond to emails well, but what do you want?
I really like Mayor Jim Bouley. He's a great guy. Very receptive and approachable. Much better than previous mayors in this regard. He truly seems concerned about the community and thinks he is doing all he can. Sure, he is a bit over-sensitive sometimes but so am I and so are the most passionate people in politics. God help us if he lost the election in 2007 to that, that arrrghhh!
Dr. Douglas Black brought me into the world and also my firstborn. He walks in my neighborhood and waves to me. He is a very cordial and nice man.
Mark Coen, who comments here sometimes, reaches out, shows up, and is clearly concerned about the city.

See, I have nice things to say about councilors.

But when they all come together, they sometimes make some of the worst decisions possible for the city and this has been clear time and time again.

As far as city employees go, the ones who work for the city clerk are great. So are the ones who work for the assessors and registration. They deal with all kinds of irate people and they are always professional and courteous.
In addition, the folks at planning department aren't bad to work with either.
The police and fire departments respond efficiently.
There you go. Some more positivity.