Government Accountability?

The front page of the Scottsdale Republic today proclaims

 

SIGNS OF RECOVERY MIXED

Automotive and retail sales drive an increase in Scotts­dale’s sales-tax revenue, but overall, the Northeast Valley’s economic recovery is far from robust.

GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY, Page 3

I immediately fanned to Page 3…and double checked to see that I was on Page 3. Accountability? Where?

The top of the page says

2012 auto sales lead city’s sales-tax revenue gain

Not really a lead that a reader would associate with accountability.

OK, Peter, you got me hooked…I read the article…but still no accountability. Oh wait…

At the very bottom:

“We’re just watching tourism trying to get back on its feet,” said [City Treasurer David] Smith. “It’s not coming back like a barn burner.”

The current fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30, has seen sales-tax collections for the first six months up about 4.5 percent. The city had projected a 5 percent increase, Smith said.

We might be a bit shy for the full fis­cal year,” he added.

Sales tax collections are up from last year, but…drum roll…a half-percent below estimates upon which the current budget (and expenditures) are based. Doesn’t sound like much.

But, a half-percent out of $225 million is what, $11 million short? That kind of sounds like a lot of money to me! That’s the equivalent of 110 rookie police officers (we lost 32 sworn officers last year), not including initial training costs!

Maybe there’s technically some accountability here after all. The reader just needs to bring their own calculator!

Of course, it would be helpful if the reader brought a good memory, too, so they could recall that City Treasurer David Smith warned Mayor Jim Lane and the City Council last spring that the budget they approved included an $8 million deficit even WITH the optimistic tax revenue projections.

Funny, the Republic never independently verified or independently reported upon that little tidbit.

So, does this mean we will finish the fiscal year almost $20 million in the hole? If the most recent projections hold, that’s exactly what it means. If sales tax falls farther behind, it’s going to be worse.

There’s always the chance that things will improve, and I hope they do. But, the folks who create and approve the budget shouldn’t plan to spend every penny (let along run a deficit) based on projections. They should plan for conservative expenditures and be glad if we have a surplus.

Maybe then we could once again transfer money to the infrastructure funds we’ve shorted for the last five or six years…to ‘balance’ the budget.

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