I thought I would be too tired to blog today after being up until 1:00 AM last night, but I caught my second wind after I picked my newspaper out of the mailbox. Today’s Letter to the Editor was pretty apropos after the marathon 4-hour meeting last night. Lou Gigliotti, a business owner in Wylie, wrote a letter that slam-dunks the notion of responsible cuts and irresponsible spending.
Gigliotti points out, “We, the taxpayers, paid $40 million for a party house with two basketball courts, a health club indoor running track and things that a city government has no business doing.” Gigliotti is irritated that he received a flier in his city water bill advertising the recreation center for baby showers, reunions, and birthday parties. I have to admit, he’s on to something there. $40M seems a pretty severe route to take in order to provide party planning services to citizens. I also agree that what activities are offered there are pretty flat. Climbing the wall is OK the first 120 days but after that, what’s new? Lots of people walk the track but personally, I want to be among the flowers and the trees, and the birds and the bees. Maybe that’s the ADHD in me.
My workout room upstairs has more appeal, and when I spread the cost of it over the number of years I’ve been in this house, it’s relatively cheap compared to a rec center membership. Plus, I’ve got a pool in the back yard, albeit a small one, but it works just fine with my drink of choice, a nice minty Mojito in hand and some serious alternative rock playing in the background. At least I don’t have to be embarrassed in public as I pretend to do a synchronized swimming routine to Incubus or Foo Fighters. Now there’s a sight to behold.
In last night’s meeting, City Manager Mindy Manson stated that the Recreation Center was never expected to run in the black, or Even-Steven for that matter. Projections were for the Rec Center to bring in about 80% of the revenue needed to keep the doors open. It has always been expected to run in the red. 80% is beyond gap, it’s more like a gaping hole that can’t ever be sewn shut. Simply put, your Rec Center loses money month after month and the city makes up those losses according to Manson by taking it from incoming sales tax.
A concern I have about this is that when the Rec Center opened, they offered some extra months on the annual plan in order to get people in the door. I wonder how many people will actually renew their membership in this down economy, especially since the city will be agreeing to increases in our trash, gas, and electric bills. What I can say on the flip side of this argument is that at least the city is attempting to bring in more funds to help pay for the 800 lb. gorilla sitting at the corner of Brown and Country Club.
Mr. Gigliotti went on to write, “The irresponsible spending is the product of Mayor Hogue, the city council and the city manager.” The harsh reality about this statement is, the city manager and her staff bring the budget to the council who then votes on it after a handful of people get up and speak their mind. Last night was no exception as one of the Library Ladies, as they are fondly known, Ms. Gerry spoke up in her usual goofy way complete with googly eyes and giggles, stating, “I like this budget.” Okay. An interesting statement considering none of the council members really liked it and decided to hold yet another workshop to go over more possible cuts. Councilman Rick White’s wife, Alicia White spoke eloquently about supporting the city, and the employees. Well, eloquently until she got a little ahead of herself and started to yell into the microphone like a frigging drill sergeant. Thankfully she got control of it and pulled it all back together, followed by some claps of her Wylie View rah rah city-pulpit-peers and city employees who all want more money. You reckon? Others spoke for and against the 2% bonus and stated their reasons why. I spoke and will publish my letter when I write more about the actual meeting in the next couple of days. As I’ve been saying here, I want the employees to be rewarded but only if more cuts can be made in order to pay for it rather than using the rainy day fund to cover it. That rainy day fund is about to be hit over and over again in the coming years, like a dirty rug and personally I find that to be a bad plan.
Probably the largest problem I have with the mindsets and ideologies of those who came to speak last night, along with some of the council members and the mayor, is that when Mayor Eric Hogue spoke about paying the employees he compared the city to a company. The problem with his belief system is that companies are in it for a profit but the city of Wylie is not a for-profit business and you simply cannot compare the two.
People say the city manager and council are doing a fine job of it all because we are not in the shitcan as much as other communities. Well perhaps that’s because other communities don’t have the outrageous tax rate that we have here. According to Gigliotti, “Our city council is an amateur hour at our expense. They should cut every department by 10 percent minimum. Either cut the pay and benefits or cut the number of employees.” I agree with the idea behind this statement wholeheartedly but take it one step further to suggest they cut their budgets even more even though Manson stated last night that for the last 3 years departments have cut each time they were asked to do so. That is all well and fine, but more can be done. More can always be done, especially when they have over 300 employees. Mindy Manson is one smart cookie and I have every confidence she’ll come up with some more cuts to propose at the workshop in two weeks, perhaps with a little help from her friends.
Finally, Gigliotti stated, “My building has been for sale for years. No one wants to come to Wylie because of the high taxes and unresponsive government.” Well he’s got us there. So is Wylie the little engine that could, or is it the little city government too big for its boxers? When times are good, nobody sweats the small stuff. Now that times are not so good, monetary indiscretions will become quite apparent. Only time will tell.