Council Watch, 6/9/08

A last-minute change to the regular City Council Meeting agenda, prompted by the city manager, put the waste-collection fee ordinance ahead of considerations for utility tax, rate and fee hikes. At that point, Public Works Director Rick Monas pulled a rabbit out of his hat. Turns out the Refuse Fund has about $485,000 that they’ve been saving up for a couple pieces of equipment but don’t need them after all, so City Council could decide to put the windfall where needed elsewhere.

I found the Refuse Fund in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs, pronounced Kay-fers). In the CAFR for end of FY 2007 (June 30), the “rabbit” was $373,083. That would have been nice to know 6 months ago, when it was probably about $400,000, instead of their yelling “Budget Crisis–layoffs–layoffs–layoffs!” I mean, doesn’t it make you wonder how many more “rabbits” are in there?

Here’s how I read the situation. This is pure speculation based on observation of the proceedings. Staff got wind that there were not enough votes for all the tax hikes–which indeed did play out that way–and are trying to save their budget proposal as is, with no cuts. They pulled out this rabbit to dangle in front of Council, hoping that Council will rather not tangle over the cuts themselves and will throw the rabbit in the General Fund to avoid them.

Don’t do it, Council! Put that money in the Reserve or Capital Fund and snip, snip, snip that budget. It’s good surgery that will lead to healing. The Financial Advisory Committee’s recommendations are solid. Use them.