I found some very telling information in the last budget work session that took place Saturday morning. It seems a fair amount of time was spent attempting to refute my previous blog posts. While I am certainly happy I hold such a presence even though I don’t sit on council, I am quite disturbed at the larger picture that began to unfold like a used napkin blowing in the wind:
· The numbers presented in the June 12, 2012 work session were a supposed “snapshot” of where they were in the budget process according to City Manager Mindy Manson. Evidently her presentation harbored some erroneous data and she is now changing her tune. Shall I remind readers that the presentation held a slide showing 1% decreases to Police and Fire and 5 Furlough days? The claim is made that the slide referenced the previous year’s plan. Oh, so we are to believe they were going to take those actions this time last year? Hmmmm….. Disturbingly, I was at the previous year’s work sessions on the budget and I don’t recall seeing that foil as any type of plan a year ago, in fact if it had been why on earth would they have fought so hard to give the employees a 2% bonus last year? Keep tracking with me.
· Mindy Manson and the Creative Finance Department presented a $173K shortfall 3 weeks ago which made the headlines of the Wylie News and suddenly, this meeting Manson and her minions were able to find that plus a little something something to a total windfall of $590K. In fact according to Mindy they, “Were able to bridge that gap and then some.” Let me get this straight, this shortfall makes headline status in the newspaper but there is no mention of future scrubbing to offset this sort of torrid announcement? Shameful. Manson suddenly found $763K in the budget by “scrubbing it” as she likes to call it? Interesting. That was quite some luffah.
· If your City Manager began last year’s budget process suggesting decreases and furloughs and ended it with providing a 2% bonus, isn’t there something wrong with that picture? In fact, if your City Manager began this year’s budget process suggesting a shortfall and ends with a windfall and permanent 2 ½% pay increases for all staff, doesn’t that make you equally as uncomfortable with a sort of oscillating trend?
· They iterate that in no way has staff considered decreasing pay or furlough days or tax increases for this coming budget. Why then was that slide in the June 12th presentation? Is there a reason for such carelessness? I don’t know about you but right about now I’m sort of thinking our City Manager needs to get her shit together a little better.
· Suddenly we have the money to fund the Narcotics Squad, fund additional marketing and branding, and also give a 2 ½% permanent pay increase to all staff. We went from a shortfall to be able to make sure Mindy can increase her pay for giving us such good work on the budget. Oh staff looked for a 5% increase but they could only come up with a 2 ½% pay increase. So how did we go from showing old presentations of 1% pay decreases to broad and sweeping 2 ½% pay increases in a matter of 3 weeks?
· Staff and City Council members did their damndest to dissuade anyone from believing the CAFR holds any real value, yet I don’t know of any company in the real business world who can get insurance or open a commercial account at a bank or vendor without providing, um, you guessed it, their financials. In fact, audited financials are required to open up a corporate American Express account. Will they accept a ‘budget’? Um, no. Yup, audited financials are THAT important because they are real numbers. Looking to real, trackable numbers to forecast from would make more sense than fudging numbers. In fact, our fiscal year at work has ended and I am working on setting up the FY2013 forecasts and guess what I use to forecast? Their actuals. So if the only actuals I had were from the 2010 budget, guess I would be taking them into consideration. So when Bubba Scott, this alleged financial adviser, drones on about making the clarification that they are two very different documents, um duh. Every idiot knows there is a difference and this group of concerned citizens is wondering why an audited financial document would be discounted so vehemently by the gang of 7 on council. Does Bubba even know why he is opening his chubby cheeks? Then again, as Treasurer of WASA, Wylie's Aged Sagging Amateurs, he got away with absconding $13K from the City of Wylie without having to open up one financial for viewing. Guess Bubba Scott is charmed like dat.
· Only Mayor Eric Hogue and one City Council member, Councilman Bennie Jones, bothered to meet with the group of concerned citizens that is investigating the City’s numbers. I was passed these numbers and though a small error was found in them yesterday with the percentage of increase over the last 3 years in sales tax, there are other items of notable question and worth a looksee. Sadly, I see 5 other Councilmembers who appear, to this group of citizens, to be refusing to sit down and discuss the numbers with them. Why? Is it because they are God smacked? Is it because they don’t want to do the work? Is it because they don’t understand what they are looking at to begin with? Is it because they don’t give a crap about their constituents? It’s hard to determine the answer to that but at last contact, I heard only Mayor Hogue and Councilman Jones have met with members of this group. To be honest, there are only two reasons for Mayor to take an interest and I am fine with both reasons because at least he is doing what he was elected to do. Reason one, if this group’s numbers are even remotely correct, it would behoove mayor to be on the winning side of that argument. Reason two, if the group’s numbers are wrong, he can say that he did his due diligence and investigated the questions to the fullest. The fact that Mayor even bothered to investigate, to be honest raises him in my estimation. Good on Hogue. In fact I give Hogue and Jones a ton of credit for looking into the matter rather than holding up a book called Budget and thumping it like it is their Bible.
· Of concern is that the other shoe has not dropped yet and the next discussion will be refinancing the bonds so the City of Wylie can take on even more debt and not only does everyone get a pay increase (which they desperately need) and our police and fire are staffed as they should be (which we desperately need), and we get the new big-ass quints (which our Fire Chief deserves), and we even have more money to toss at WASA, our favorite non-profit who refuses to show anyone their financials (who doesn’t deserve anything until they hand ‘em over), and nobody gets a tax increase (or perhaps we get a ½ cent decrease tossed at us like rank dogs jumping for a biscuit) all by taking on more debt. Oh yippee! Now everyone in Wylie can live in freaking lala land while it becomes the problem of future families who move here and future generations who might stay here. Yes, Goss and Culver will leave after their terms are up. Jones will get his youth thing going to finish his ‘unfinished business’ and then move closer to work after his stint is up, Hogue will attempt to move on to bigger and better, maybe trying to take the seat away from State Representative, Jodie Laubenberg whom he keeps close tabs on, and the Whites, Spillyards, and Bubba Scotts will move on without a thought as to how Wylie’s future is mortgaged. As any fiscal conservative should be, I am concerned about taking on more debt and it is the very thing I argue against with regard to our Federal Government. In fact, though people are going to cast mean-spirited looks at me next time I am in the school because it is such an unpopular idea, it was the very thing that made me vote against the WISD Bonds, even though I knew the administration would finagle them to pass with an extra helping of teacher votes. Debt is an insidious monster no matter how cheap money is to lend and it is the devil that will bite us in the backside when we hit the point of no return. If you are walking around town wearing your 'I am a Conservative' button proudly on your lapel and voting to take on more debt regardless of how sweet that dealio looks, I think you need to go back to church and ask your Maker for forgiveness for you know not what you do.
· I’ve got a feeling we are headed for the point of no return and I have already been made aware of several families that have put their homes up for sale rather than deal with our ridiculous City Leaders decisions and our outrageous tax rate. Sadly, rather than reduce what Wylie’s citizens are paying, rather than hold Wylie’s citizens in its bosom, it appears the group of 7 individuals on council have gelled together and are of the same arrogant mind. The majority of this Council would rather not bother themselves with a foreign idea of understanding why their City Manager came to them 3 weeks ago with a shortfall and is now presenting them the garden of honey and roses. They would rather not deal with a group of concerned citizens. They would rather not stand behind the principals they ran on and spewed while they were stumping for their campaigns. As I see it, the answer is simple: 7 people need to use their brains and grow a pair of integrity rather than sit on them.