I’ve listened with a mixture of patience and fury to misinformation circulating for quite some time, but now that the election is upon us, it’s time to set the record straight. The fund balance has not suffered from gross misuse of funds. We have not been spending wildly for four years, and in fact, I’ve never exceeded my departmental budget or overspent what had been budgeted for city hall repairs. We’ve been very careful with your money and have, in fact, grown our sources of revenue.
Fund balance fallacy
My opponent states that he left the city flush with a $3M fund balance. The actual calculation was closer to $2.7M, but that was also incorrect. During my first year in office, the Controller informed the council of a $500,000 error, as she had failed to budget for MVP premiums. This came after the budget committee had already allocated funds to maintain a flat tax rate at budget time. So, from the get-go, we had started with much less in the coffers than we had anticipated.
Couple this scenario with an $800,000 shortfall that had been decades in the making and not discovered until the sale of foreclosed-on properties last year. Reserves had not been adequately set aside for uncollectible taxes (when a tax bill goes out, it is considered paid whether it is collected or not. It is necessary to budget reserve funds to offset this loss. This had not been done for many, many years.)
Toss in the $300,000 reduction in state aid, sales tax, and mortgage tax and we find ourselves where we are today. These losses would have occurred regardless of whom was in office.
My tax and rate increases were less than those of my opponent’s.
Over four years, my opponent increased city taxes 9.37% and water/sewer/sanitation fees a whopping 24.58%. This compares to a 6.91% increase in city taxes during my four years and 8.19% increase in fees. Obviously, my opponent doesn’t acknowledge this record when telling us he is going to protect us in the future (in fact, his record is never mentioned at all, nor a plan as to HOW he plans to protect us in the future. Personally, I find that troublesome.)
Truth: monumental budgetary successes over four years.
In my first two years of office, there were no tax increases. Money was appropriated to keep taxes stable and provide for legitimate operational services. In years three and four, excluding debt, we stayed within the 3% cap.
We’ve gone on to harness over $1 million dollars in new revenues that will add to our budget every year from agreements with Beechnut, GAVAC, the County for sales tax redistribution, and the towns for water. We’ve realized real savings by reining in discretionary overtime, renegotiating labor contracts and switching insurance carriers. We’ve shaved thousands off of our lean budget and are running departments more efficiently.
We’ve been tremendously successful in securing over $20 million dollars in grants for everything from infrastructure and neighborhood revitalization to recreational enhancements and marketing (most of our marketing materials were produced with the $40K in grants I received in my first year of service.) Beyond funding, you cannot discount the value of the time, effort and donations of our volunteers that supplied us with flowers for Church Street (FREE), videos (FREE), events such as Spring Fling and National Night Out (FREE), city-wide litter pick-ups (FREE), neighborhood watch (FREE), and murals (FREE).
I’m proud of the performance of my administration. Running the city has been a full-time, passionate commitment for me. I’m proud that I have more to reference than tired slogans and empty words. We deserve better and should expect better. I will always try to live up to that expectation.
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