Possible Budgeting

In an article from this past Wednesday, the Scottsdale Republic reports that a, Possible budget surplus may hinge on city property-tax hike.

There is a very real shortfall on the flip side of that headline, which I would have written, “Deficit can only be avoided by political suicide.”

Again illustrating that the headline doesn’t match the body of the article [Reporter Loses Hed Over Budget], the Republic writes,

Without the property-tax increases, a projected surplus in budget estimates now might be effectively eliminated, though numbers likely will change in coming months as city officials hammer out clearer estimates.

Figures presented Tuesday initially showed a surplus of $1.9million, which excluded some unavoidable expenses that were not included yet.

The surplus incorporated property-tax increases but no pay raises for employees.

My favorite spend-and-tax cronycon is quoted,

Councilwoman Linda Milhaven, citing economic forecasts from Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, said the city’s sales-tax projections for retail are “pretty conservative.”

There are too many layers of the “conservative” adjective here for my comfort level. I think someone has forgotten what the term means.

Employee compensation is going to continue to be a hot topic.

[Councilwoman] Klapp said the city has roughly $200,000 in savings left over from a recent compensation strategy that could go toward raises next year.

Let’s make sure we spend it all!

Here’s the worst part that foreshadows another episode of dipping into savings to “balance the budget”:

Savings from an unreserved fund balance at the end of this fiscal year could provide extra dollars for one-time costs.

That’s exactly what we did once before, and just as a reminder:  a budget is balanced only if it takes in exactly as much as goes out. If you take money out of savings (reserved or otherwise) to keep the lights on and doors open, you don’t have a balanced budget…Mayor CPA Lane.

I note with strong irony that this article doesn’t address a looming issue: Chronic shortfunding of capital improvement projects. That’s the only way we’ve gotten even CLOSE to a balanced budget for several years, and Lane himself has made a big deal out of it…not big enough to face the issue in the campaign or even now, though.

Meanwhile, our infrastructure will continue to deteriorate, while Lane and the other cronycons cry for bonds and tax increases (which inevitably accompany bonds in a red-ink budget) for these ever-more-critical needs.

We should be cutting unnecessary spending, both structural (e.g., $4  million annual subsidy to the private Scottsdale Cultural Council), and one-time silliness (e.g., $15 million to the TPC).

It would help if we had a newspaper that would bring some of this to light.

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