I was only able to pop in to the Wylie City Council Budget Work Session for a few minutes this morning. The spousal unit’s brother and his family are in town from New York City so time is our master at the moment.
This afternoon, I had a few minutes of downtime during the rain and was able to whiz through the meeting as it is online.
What I noticed is a bunch of explanations for spending, silliness over Parks and Rec as well as City cell phone bills, the same message of needs from Police and Fire, but nothing that addresses salaries and the 2 to 1 -401K matching that I think needs to be revisited instead of making other cuts. I also think they need to visit this little thing called a Long Term Investment Fund in which they had $62M in the last CAFR but as of the March presentation it was down to $54M. The City of Wylie is investing taxpayer dollars? With what authority? What happened to $8M dollars then? Don’t we get an explanation for its loss?
I knew Mayor Eric Hogue would be prepared to orchestrate a mass burial of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report or CAFR toward the end of the meeting. He is so good at burying things he doesn’t want to come out and shutting down people when he sees too much information will be spilled. It came as no surprise that a perfectly timed comment from City Manager Mindy Manson was made toward the end of the meeting as most people had left already, dismissing the CAFR as old because numbers from last year have not been certified yet. The stage was then set to attempt to prove that the CAFR is insignificant and Master Mayor Puppeteer set his little marionette Bubba Scott in motion to try to show how the CAFR is old. Oh it's so old, dirt was created after it. Ya right. I could have set my watch by this attempt to bury the CAFR. I could have even placed a bet on it. Mayor is nothing if not consistent.
A couple citizens came up to speak. In my opinion, the last citizen’s comments were the most poignant. With my own TXun spin on it, what I believe she pointed out is that all the subliminal messages being spread by meeting participants during this final planned group CAFR thuggery were a bit “misleading”.
The orchestration proceeded as follows: Councilman David Goss spoke up in attempting to get a better look at the CAFR numbers in relation to the presented budget, Linda Bantz put on the Teflon and slid it off of her, Citizen Cane pointed out how misleading it all was thus lobbing the ball back at the City, then Mindy Manson clarified and tried to relieve the CAFR from any real authority, of course a well-rehearsed Bubba Scott piped in because he just has to listen to himself talk, and then it happened. Wait for it, wait for it. When discussing the CAFR, Mindy Manson stated, “There is absolutely a relationship.” Tada! There it is.
There is a relationship. There is a relationship between CAFRs over the years as well. They show definite trends of upward or downward movement and according to the budget presentation, Manson is attempting to show the movement for retail sales tax as suddenly dropping off.
If the last three CAFRs show an average of 9.5% increase each year in retail sales tax (corrected by the individual who presented me with this information) and Manson’s current presentation shows only 8% increase in retail sales tax this year and 6% for next year, do you buy that? I certainly don’t. I don’t buy into that because we have had 200+ homes built here in Wylie each of those years and expect 200+ more next. That means that in the last 3 years, plus our current year, we have brought in 800 new households. That is 800 more housefuls of people spending money in Wylie and this time next year there will be another 200 households.
I don't buy into less sales tax increase because of the fact that the cost of goods has increased dramatically over the last year and is expected to increase. That means the goods cost more to buy and more taxes are paid on them.
Additionally, we have a Target, optical, beds, Aldi (though small they do sell some taxable items), and new fast food restaurants out the wazoo that we didn’t have 3 years ago. They came online over the last three years. We are expecting a theatre, a hospital, Ross, Rack Room Shoes, and more restaurants coming online. Though I’m sure they were given sweet tax abatement deals from the WEDC to get here, they are still contributing to the tax purse. Do you still believe our sales tax revenue increase will be considerably lower than the last 3 years? Oh it's still going up, but it's going up less. Strange concept since Wylie's growth has not leveled off with regard to new businesses being built yet. When Wylie becomes built out and all the businesses that are going to be here are here, only then will you see a leveling out.
Manson is claiming her numbers are coming off of the current budget and that won’t be certified for quite some time, yet there is a relationship with the CAFR. What she murmured indicated fully that there is a track, there is a relationship of upward or downward movement from CAFR to CAFR supposedly correlating with her budget presentations and it is indeed pretty steady. Manson’s 5 little words about pissed Mayor off.
Suddenly, a snide and snippety Mayor McCheese stated rather gruffly, “We are getting off departmental budgets.” Of course, then it ended and everything was shut down by Mayor.
What I saw today was the continuing theme of our Wylie Council, City Manager Mindy Manson, and Finance Director Linda Bantz who are all discounting the CAFR. Well of course it isn’t current numbers, that is obvious if it is an accounting document audited in September 2011, but it is the only hard and fast actuals we have to go on, making it relevant.
Consider what Council just attempted to show us today, that the CAFR is a useless piece of rubbish that is so old it is nullified. However I challenge readers to use some common sense. If the numbers in the CAFR are from the 2009/2010 budget year, we had much less retail sales tax revenue then, about 400 less homes then, and much higher expense because we had not started to cut spending from the downturn in the economy. For Council to make one grand gesture, sweeping the CAFR under the carpet as irrelevant is a bit like when my dog hides under the bed but yet her back-end is still sticking out. Just cuz she can’t see us doesn’t mean we can’t see her.