By Henry Twombly, Sedona Resident
(July 12, 2014)
I found that last month’s Community Connection incited a range of reactions within me from the petty to the profound. My most petty observation was that the City could have saved money by a simple black-and-white print job on regular stock paper. As petty as this is, it is symbolic of the City’s attitude and lax oversight of its expenditures – expressing the grandiose for a sophisticated image rather than the frugal for fiscal responsibility. When I noticed the Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube icons on the back page, I wondered how many people really follow the City’s actions on social media, and how much money is wasted on these seemingly unnecessary communication efforts.
These discrepancies in Community Connection shows the Council playing fast and loose with the budget. Spending at City Hall is out of control, and the only way to stop it is to vote against Home Rule. To vote for Home Rule is to give the Council a blank check, which means unchecked spending. The Council will have to tax us residents more and more via Special Assessment Areas, General Obligation bonds, or a property tax. All to pay for the increased Chamber of Commerce subsidy and the overdevelopment of the City that enrichs developers and the construction industry.
We won’t get another chance to vote down Home Rule for another four years. (In my publicity pampheet article I was wrong to think the City could circumvent this law.) If we don’t vote down Home Rule this August, we are approving a resolution that allows the Council to spend excessively, as it taxes the many of us to benefit a few vested interests. If you want to impose some degree of fiscal responsibility upon the Council, please vote against Home Rule and tell your friends to do so as well
About certain so-called fiscal achievements reported in June 2014’s “Community Connection”:
The City has been paying off its enormous bond debt on schedule. In my opinion, this essentially explains the outstanding balance reduction of from $72 Million in 2008 to $50 Million in 2014. Is this a real achievement?
Councilor Mike Ward explains budgeting methodology differences in his June 2012 City Talk article on Sedona Finances. To quote: “In the past, the city’s budget was set artificially high. For example, the FY 2008 budget was approved at $61 Million while only $28 Million was actually expended. Under our new City Manager…..our budget much more realistically reflects the real anticipated costs of running the city every year.” While Sedona’s population is not growing, its non-artificially high budgets are trending upwards. This year’s budget came in at a whopping $38,385,154. Yet, only a little over 2 years ago, the City gave voters a budget estimate of $32,470,495 for the current year via its March 2012 Home Rule Election documents.
Even though the City has enjoyed surpluses in its operating reserve fund for the past five years as touted, Page 1-8 of the current budget, addressing non-WW capital funding, contains troubling information. It states: “In order to continue to address capital infrastructure improvements and pursue new capital outlay projects beyond 2017 [FY 2016-17], other funding sources and/or a debt financing strategy must be pursued.” On July 30, 2013 the City Council held an educational session on GO-Bonds secured by an unlimited property tax, as well as Special Improvement Districts.
A “NO” vote is one of the few opportunities citizens have to restrain and, hopefully, redirect city government spending.