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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Show Me the Money

The drum beat from anti-tax groups, from some on council and from other citizens that there THERE IS MONEY to do everything we want done in Troy without ever needing to raise revenue. They are ADAMANT that they can continue to squeeze blood out of the city stone.

When asked to show where that money is, most will point to this confusing “fund balance” source of cash. Fund balance is, as I understand, a “savings account” that municipalities keep in excess of budget expenditures. Most like to keep it at safe levels, meaning they could cover some sort of catastrophic event or financial crisis. I’ve heard that the LOWEST level of funding recommended to keep in fund balance in 15% of total budget. I’ve heard that we have anywhere from that 15-22% into which we can dip.

And dip we have…to balance the budget as revenues have decreased. Some, like Councilman Howrylak, recommend dipping ever FURTHER into it to provide services to our city so that we don’t have to raise taxes.

Additionally, they will claim that we haven't achieved enough in employee concessions, and that the TYPE of concessions we've achieved aren't good enough. For some, merely reducing the expenses of a department doesn't count if you haven't TAKEN ENOUGH MONEY OUT OF PEOPLE'S POCKETS. I've actually heard several anti-taxers say, "If I get less money in my check, so should they. I don't care if they lose other things or how they achieve the decrease if they don't touch someone's pay hard enough."

In other words, they think we can simply continue to cut ourselves out of this while we continue to lose revenue over the next several years.

Where does this thinking leave us?

It will leave us with bare-bones service, a skeleton work force and an undesirable community without basic services and quality of life venues that make someone want to live, work and shop here. It leaves us with qualified, experienced and competent workers FLEEING for ships that aren't sinking.

It leaves us unsustainable.

Great cities require public investment and sustainable funding. Staggering along with decreasing funding, depleting all our resources, and cutting everything down as low as it can go will NOT make Troy great.

It may not even make it good.

I honestly do not understand the philosophy that says, “Use all the reserve to provide basic service, and don’t replace that reserve with sustainable funding.”

I honestly do not understand the philosophy that says, “You don’t need quality services, employees and equipment in your city if you can get by with cheaper and second rate things.”

I honestly do not understand the philosophy that says, “Take a great city, cut it off at every artery and starve it, and it will be good enough.”

If there TRULY is some pot of excess money in our budget after the final concessions have been made and after all supposed unexpected gains form pension plans and after the highly-touted actuarial reports have been considered…GREAT. There won’t be such an issue with our roads and the clearing of them in snowy times for this coming winter. We can also use that excess to SUPPLEMENT the library and bring it back to a higher standard of service – closer to what we’ve always had previous to now. The supplement AND a successful millage would be an awesome outcome of all of Troy’s fiscal responsibility.

But make no mistake: we all know that alone won’t be good enough into perpetuity.

It cannot be repeated often enough that. great cities require financial investment. Troy can be great again when we get that investment back, either through an increase in property tax revenue, greater economic development or millage increases...or...DARE TO DREAM...all of the above.

Until that time…there is no money to run a great city. And I don’t ever want to be satisfied with just “good enough.”

Do you?

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