Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Guest View-Mike Zinkin: Beware of the Approaching Iceberg

The Numbers and the Rhetoric do not add up.

The Community and Recreation Fund (CRF) ended the month $597,566 in the red. This is in spite of the $1,013,173 in revenue from the increased sales tax. Despite these numbers, the Finance Director tells us that by the end of the fiscal year (FY), the Town will be able to pay back the annual $120,000 to the General Fund and still end the year with a positive balance of $11,574.

How is this possible? The CRF lost over $590,000 during the first 6 months of the FY, so in order to fulfill the forecast of the Finance Department, the CRF Fund must make over $700,000 during the remaining 6 months. I suppose that one way to make this possible is by delaying the $400,000 promise to make the facility ADA compliant.

Golf continues to lose money
Golf lost $171,848 in December, which was $116,774 more than forecasted, and $36,134 more than the December 2015 losses! During the first 6 months of the FY, golf was forecasted to lose $1,041,912, but actually lost $1,423,431...a $381,519 miscalculation.

Food and Beverage operations continue to lose money
The Overlook Restaurant was forecasted to make $14,079, but actually lost $5,391. This brings the total food and beverage losses to $82,649 for the first half of the FY.

Town releases a new survey
Finally realizing that it cannot continue along this trend, the Town published an online survey on its website asking citizens to answer “5 questions in 5 minutes” to solicit feedback for the 2017-2018 budget. (The questionnaire was only available on the Town website from January 30th through February 10th.)

The survey asked if you would be willing to pay more in taxes to continue services. They asked what services are important to you. The problem is, this survey is hardly valid since one person can answer the survey multiple times and there is no guarantee that the survey responses will only be submitted by Oro Valley residents. Just as an example, what is to stop a Parks and Recreation employee from answering the survey multiple times stating that they would like to see more money spent toward Parks and Recreation?

The validity of the survey is not important to the Council. The mayor and three of the current council members previously disregarded a statistically valid survey that asked Oro Valley residents what amenities they would like to see in a Community Center. Despite tennis ranking #11 on the survey, golf ranking #33, and a pool not being mentioned at all, what did we get at “our” taxpayer-funded Community Center? We got 31 tennis courts, three golf courses, and two pools.

I mention this only as a reminder that the majority on this council have already shown a history of not listening to citizen input. Why should we expect them to treat the results of this survey any differently?

Iceberg dead ahead
So what’s the real reason for the survey? It’s likely that this Council is just looking for an excuse to raise your taxes instead of reducing the size of government.

Why do they need additional funding? Consider that over the past couple of years, the Town staff has grown by over 40 employees (none of them in Public Safety) despite the fact that our population growth during that time has not grown at a pace warranting an additional 40 employees. Additionally, Town employees have enjoyed a minimum of a 3.5% wage increase each year over the past four years.

Rapid growth of Town staff and a policy of across the board wage increases that are not merit-based is an unsustainable business model. They simply need more funding to cover these additional and unnecessary costs.