Sunday, August 19, 2007
A Tale of Two City Budgets
To know the real priorities of any organization -- from a small family to a national government -- you need to take a look at how it spends its money. When tax revenues are down, it is an especially good time to see whether public officials will act responsibly to control spending and where they will cut funding.
Springdale is preparing its 2008 city budget and facing the realities of reduced sales tax revenues. This year, Springdale had a $28.2 million general fund, and city departments have been told to hold the line. City officials have decided that they will have plenty of money for a new baseball stadium and can easily afford funding three police officers to work full time on immigration enforcement for the federal government. As expected, they say that savings can be made by giving smaller employee raises. Unexpected, however, is that they might cut back on the fat no-bid contracts giving tax dollars to the Chamber of Commerce to promote business development and economic growth and actually expect the Industrial Commission and the Advertising and Promotion Commission to do their job.
In Fayetteville, the 2008 budget process will soon be gearing up, but we have no idea how Mayor Coody and his executive staff will prepare for reduced revenues. Looking at this year's experience, it's been like watching a drunk on a bender. They started off with a projected budget deficit for the airport to serve residents and corporations with private airplanes. They also budgeted $34,000 for the Lights of the Ozarks spectacle, but it is unclear if that includes buying new lights to replace the new colored lights they bought last year; it does not cover the time of city employees to install and take down the lights nor the huge electric bill. Even with sales tax collections already below projections this year, the Advertising and Promotion Commission has been buying real estate instead of advertising and promoting. That should give you some idea of Fayetteville's priorities. If they decide next week to spend city storm water funds to dredge a private lake for private property owners in an upscale subdivision, then you'll know for sure.