Sunday, July 15, 2012

ZAP! #92: Conning the Rubes

ZAP! #92
     Step right up kids.  Get your money ready to play the CM $29+ Million Shell Game.  That’s right folks, the CM $29+ Million Shell Game is now open for business.  And this time, we will not be using old fashion walnut shells to play.  New, improved and highly opaque glass shells will be used.  You will not be able to see all the actual tax increases or hidden cost under the shells, but you will know they are there.

     For those with PADD (Political Attention Deficit Disorder), do you remember the $34 million McDougalville (Heritage Crossing) fiasco?  Remember all the rhetoric of how this could be settled without relying on tax payers to foot the bill?  Remember how all this would be taken care of by just selling a few bonds  (Of course, it was not explained where the revenues would come from to repay the bonds! Was this accomplished in a council executive session with the public never being notified as to the method employed?)

     It seems clear now that the McDougalville farce could be paid off by playing the CM $29+ Million Shell Game.  What follows might be the newly developed rules as to how the game appears to be played.  However, rules and conditions are still being made on the fly by the city manager and it doesn’t appear that even the city council might know how the game will actually be played.

     If you look under one of the shells of the CM $29+ Million Shell Game you will observe that some revenues collected from Garbage Funds (specific use tax collections) have been transferred to the General Fund (ad valorem tax collections) to cover shortfalls or other city manager dictates.  This amounts to about $2+ million for the current year.  

     What tax payers may not know is that the city council has already approved and sold $29+ million in Garbage Fund bonds to pay for the McDougalville blunder.  The question now becomes: If funds are already being transferred from the Garbage Fund to the General Fund to cover current shortfalls there, how will the debt service bond payments for the McDougalville farce be covered?  (Also, the $29+ million in bonds will mature in 2032 and have a total additional interest cost of about $17.5 million. Wow!  McDougalville is the gift that keeps on giving losing.)  

     The only apparent answer to cover current General Fund shortfalls (ICVB bond payments/operational cost, pet projects, etc.?) and the new McDougalville-debacle bond payments might be to raise Garbage Fund taxes, again.  Or, ad valorem taxes could be raised directly in the General Fund.  Regardless of where the taxes will be raised, all of this is counter to what has been espoused in the past, and the rosy picture painted for public consumption of how great and swimmingly financial concerns are going in the city manager’s domain seems to be just another shell game ruse.    

     Could someone inform P. T. Barnum that it appears Irving tax payers would like a review, explanation or specific detail on how this new shell game will actually be played with their money in the CM $29 Million Shell Game?  After all, $29+ million seems to be just one shell the tax payers cannot see through.  How many more opaque shells are on the table that haven’t even been turned over? 

     Maybe the only way to improve the CM $29+ Million Shell Game for future playing is to immediately provide an addendum to the current city manager’s contract that removes his automatic three-year extension clause.  

     While this will not stop the shell game from being played, it will alert the city manager and city council that the tax payers are tired of being played...for fools.