Saturday, June 6, 2009

The truth? Concord TV will barely be cut at all!

I was skimming again through the budget this morning and I think I may have found probably the most outrageous thing that I could possibly imagine: Concord TV's budget will barely be cut at all this year and I don't know how I totally missed this. There is a bit of math and it might get complicated but try to follow along. I'm still shocked at how I totally missed this one and I'm glad I was noodling around today in order to find out the truth.

First, Concord TV's budget last year was $227,320, plus a bonus of $13,400, based on this new formula which awards the cable media access center 50 percent of any franchise fees collected by the city in excess of $620,000 [a foolish decision in my mind]. Using these figures, the cable media access center's base budget will only be cut by 11 percent, not 13 percent.
While the cable access center is scheduled to get $213,798, it will probably receive an additional $25,000 based on the bonus structure. The city manager is estimating that $670,000 will be collected in franchise fee monies. $670,000 minus $620,000 is $50,000. $50,000 divided by 2 is $25,000. Add the $25,000 to the center's regular budget of $213,798 and you get $238,798.
This means that the line item from FY09 to FY10 is only cut by $1,922. Or, eight-tenths of 1 percent (earlier I posted one-tenth of 1 percent but that was not correct. I rounded up to 1 but forgot to move the decimals over two places, which is done to get the percentage figure ...). I have an email into the city manager about this but if my math is correct and this is true, it is simply outrageous beyond belief.

The reason I was even looking at the budget was the issue of the library being cut by 30 percent. I can't help but think that this cut was proposed to get a rise out of people and have them clamoring for more property taxes to save the library. I don't know this for sure, it's just a hunch that has been stewing in my brain for a few days now since attending the hearing Thursday night. Earlier this week, it was suggested to me by an elected official that I should rescind comments I made earlier this year about the city manager sending up red flag fears about increases in order to get a lower amount. I agreed, since it seems like everyone was trying to do their best to tow the line. But then I got to thinking about it all a little deeper ...
Right now, the increases are lower than last year: A 2.7 percent increase that is offset with the School Department meaning it is a net 0 to the base, and pay-as-you-throw, the bag tax, which is a fee that is equal to a 3 percent tax [without the ability to deduct it from your federal income taxes]. Last year, the increase was 5.8 percent.
However, if the city council comes back with a 1.5 or 3 percent increase, in order to preserve things like public safety, the library, and snowplowing, all important things, it will be virtually the same increase as it was last year. This means that my comment about the city manager floating a 12 percent to get 6 percent would be dead-on accurate after all. This is presuming a lot. But doesn't it look like it is heading that way?

This brings me back to Concord TV. Question: Why was the library proposed to be cut by 30 percent and Concord TV only cut by 0.8 percent? Concord TV is not a necessity; the library is.
What would the figures be if Concord TV was cut by 30 percent? Well, it depends on what figures you use. If you use the base budget from FY09, $227,320, they center would be receive $159,000 instead of $213,000. If you use the encumbered budget figure of $240,720, the center would get nearly $169,000. Either figure, $159,000 to $169,000, is more than enough money to run the center and, at the same time, transfer much needed funds to save the Penacook branch library. Instead, the center is going to get nearly the same amount of money it received last year. This is simply outrageous.

At this point, I have done just about all I can do to try to stop this madness. For years and years, I and others have tried to educate the public about mismanagement, fundraising losses, hundreds of thousands of dollars in "outreach" expenses, and outright wasteful spending on travel junkets, dinners, and treats for the board, all while other city services have been cut. This decision by the city manager to nearly level-fund the cable media access center in the middle of a global economic depression cannot stand.
I'm open for suggestions by anyone and everyone on how we stop this disgusting display of fiscal irresponsibility.


Anonymous said...

I watched the hearing on Concord TV earlier this week. It sounded like it is up to the council to decide just how much ConcordTV receives. In this year when "everything is on the table" and the city is cutting city departments and staff, why doesn't the council get some much needed revenue by reducing the money they give to concordTV? What's more important--the city library or ConcordTV???

Anonymous said...

What's more important, you ask? I suppose that's a matter of opinion, really. I watch all three channels of Concord TV far more than I ever use the library - in fact, I can't remember the last time I set foot in the library. So, for me, the library isn't all that important. However, I do see its value in the community and to others. Now ask me what's more important: fire/police or Concord TV, and you'll get a very different answer. Yet, I've heard the library being passionately labeled as an "essential service," a notion that will not be bought by me anytime soon. If the city is going to re-route my Comcast franchise fees to truly "essential" services, maybe. But, since my franchise fees originate from my television service subscription, I'd personally like them to be used for cable access - a service I use far greater than the library. To each his own. Thanks, Tony, for the forum.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 1:13

For what it's worth, police and fire are being cut too.

Tony said...

Thanks for the comments.

To Anon8:49: That is kind of my point - hundreds of people use the cable media access center but more people use the Penacook branch library in a month, hands down. So, which one is the city cutting? The city manager is proposing to close the Penacook library and cutting Concord TV by $1,922, or, virtually nothing. It's too bad that Concord TV doesn't know how many viewers it has because when compared to the tens of thousands who use the libraries, you'd have to be insane to not consider a bigger cut to Concord TV. So, it would seem as though everything is NOT on the table.

To Anon1:13: Thank you for chiming in. It is always good to get another perspective on things. Currently, the city uses a good chunk of the franchise fee for general operating and always has. Unlike some communities, which get the franchise fee directly, Concord collects it, the money goes into the general fund, and then the city appropriates money for the cable access center.
But, in this difficult year, the council has made all kinds of decisions about how it uses available revenue, how it cuts things, or new fees it has created to get by. Since the Concord TV money comes from the general fund, it should be considered like any other line item. And, as we all know, the center can run quite fine with fewer employees. Up until two years ago, it always had. They need someone to run the place, someone to put the programs online, raise money, and perform outreach, and someone to cover municipal meetings, part-time. So, they need 2.5 people, not 4.5 people.
In addition, the fact that the person who is in charge of fundraising consistently loses tens of thousands of dollars each year, and the center has spent ungodly amounts of money on "outreach," it is clear that changes need to be made.
When every other department in the city is seeing major cuts, there is absolutely no reason in the world for Concord TV not to see a major cut.