Saturday, October 31, 2009
Budget Tricks and Treats
Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan and the City Council are spending Halloween morning going over the proposed budget for 2010. According to an article in the Springdale News, it looks like they will be dipping into the reserve funds to make ends meet. That's what the city's saving account is for, maintaining services during hard economic times, after making all possible cuts in expenses.
Jordan has frozen salaries, cut 13 positions, and trimmed some other obvious fat marbled up from the previous administration, reducing the general fund expenses by more than $3 million from the 2009 budget. Somethings he can't do anything about, such as the anticipated $5,780 annual loss on the $3.7 million TIF Parking Lot that Dan Coody, John Nock, Kit Williams, Rob Sharp, and the Cowbirds promised us was going to be a fine hotel generating huge revenues, so we're stuck with that for the next 20-something years or so.
I know our city officials probably don't read this blog, but I think I have found some additional savings that should be considered. If you agree, please suggest that the mayor and your aldermen think on these things.
1. The proposed Parks and Recreation budget has a $373,000 outlay for Regional Park Development. That's what Connie Edmonston wants to spend on her SouthPark Soccer Palace next year. Since the City doesn't even have the deed to that land and is unlikely to get it anytime soon, lets nix that expense and transfer it to general revenue or parks maintenance. Connie can spend that $1 million the developers owe the city before squirreling away more tax dollars.
2. The City is set to spend $475, 562 for a Drug Enforcement Program that is expected to produce only $12,000 in fines and forfeitures. That's no way to run a city. Greenland and Johnson make far more than that on their speed trap operations. Admittedly, some of this huge inefficient budget comes from a federal grant, but we are still dumping in $233,000 in city general revenues for a failed War on Drugs started under a previous mayor. Let's take a pass on the federal funds and save our money.
3. The Executive Jetport. Forget about the utter worthlessnes of Director Ray Boudreaux for a moment and just look at the enterprise. Revenues are projected to drop $370,000 next year, and they are anticipating an operating loss of $51,200 not counting depreciation on the facility. A realistic treatment of depreciation would increase the projected annual loss by $1,531,000, which is not good. Now, facing such dismal prospects, the 2010 budget proposes to increase administrative costs by $73,000 over the current year. That's like giving bonuses to AIG executives. At least hold steady on administrative costs, and that's a paper savings of $73,000.
4. Did you know that the City is planning on giving $6,000 to the Ozarks Military Museum again next year? Did you even know that there was a military museum in Fayetteville? In hard economic times, how can Jordan and the City Council think it essential to piss away $6,000 for an obscure outfit that glamorizes war? It is not much, but that's $6,000 that could be saved or better spent on expanding the national cemetery.
5. My kids like the Boys and Girls Club, but I was surprised to learn that we are spending $57,600 from general revenues and another $147,750 from the parks budget for a total of more than $205,000 a year for a non-profit group out west of I-540. Maybe it is worth it, but what exactly is the city getting for our money? Is that an essential service? Whatever, it is more than the entire city budget for the Yvonne Richardson Center that serves a different population in a different part of town. How about cutting $20,000 from the gift to the Boys Club. That would make the two youth centers more equal, even if separate, save the taxpayers $20,000, and save the administration some white guilt.
6. Finally, we are giving $36,937 to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission. What do we get for that? Not very damn much, and, remember, this is the group that voted to spend $750,000 to study a "western beltway" from West Fork to Wal-Mart and opposes spending a dime to study the feasibility of a light rail system. Let's cut our contribution to that nest of bureaucrats by $35,000 and let them get their funding where they get their orders -- the Northwest Arkansas Council of Corporations and Wealthy Business Executives.
So, there is an annual savings of $740,000 without breaking a sweat or dropping any essential public services. My advice is worth what you pay for it, so you are also savings a big wad of cash that would have gone for a no-bid contract to an out of state consultant under a previous city administration.