Sunday, September 19, 2010

ZAP! #24 from the CCR

ZAP! #24....September 19, 2010
The September 9, 2010 public hearing on the 2010-11 city budget went as expected. The council met and appeared to be dazed by their self-induced coma of financial irresponsibility as several citizens made valid arguments for not increasing taxes, reducing unnecessary services or programs, and reminding the council that in times of hardship one should not spend public funds like drunken sailors. (Our apologies to drunken sailors.)
The final public hearing before the budget is adopted will be September 23rd. Here's our recommendation: Stay at home! Seriously, at this stage of the game, there is really nothing anyone could say or do to change what the council has already carved in stone! Your remarks will once again fall on deaf ears.
The council continues to promote and spin the notion that Irving is in good financial shape and everything is just "peachy." (It's those rose colored glasses that the mayor has distributed to each council member that causes this myopic perspective.) We are still having a difficult time understanding this argument. The decrease in property values is not the only issue that created a $44 million budget shortfall from last year's budget. The city manager's smoke and mirrors, pet projects, PowerPoint and video-PR drivel, and failed policies must shoulder a large portion of the responsibility.
However, the council solves the problem by dipping into the tax increase-well with little regard for tax payers. While this makes sense to them and is the easy way out of the financial quagmire, it is not good or common sense, of course. (The same should be said for all the other taxing entities in Irving utilizing this approach.)
One interesting aspect of the proposed budget noted by city staff during the earlier hearing concerned the number of city positions (62) that were "frozen" and not filled. This number was described as a "budget savings" of $4 million. How long will it take for these positions to "thaw" and be filled after the budget is approved and all the tax increases are implemented? One has to wonder if the city is functional without these positions now, then what would drastically change for them to fill the positions later?
If the positions are actually critical (police and fire only) for citizen's safety and welfare down the road, then the city manager should justify a request for the council to approve a budget adjustment. The council should be the controlling factor for any hiring of staff that is not already funded in the 2010-11 budget document. Otherwise, the city manager can "thaw" positions at will and expand his bureaucracy of shattered morale.
Of course, it would also be interesting to know what the new tax rate would have been if the council had trimmed $250,000 off of the city manager's $428,000 salary and benefit package.
While all of the above are critical, the horizon is still darkened by the voodoo financing for the proposed Entertainment Center. This topic will be on the ZAP! front burner once the council finalizes the 2010-11 budget fiasco. Readers will be alerted to the "mini" hotel the council has added to the project. The unanswered question is: When is a "hotel" not a hotel?