So, you ask, is the budget all signed sealed and ready for the wrath of the ceremonial mayor veto pen? Everyone wants to know who or what project is on the sacrificial lamb list but you will need to wait just a little longer. Because the budget process like just about everything this assembly does creates more questions than answers.
Assemblyman Arvin made a guest appearance from China to actually warm a chair at the horseshoe during borough budget deliberations this week. He had the pedal to the metal to push the assembly to finish their work after two special evening meetings and 29 amendments to an already painfully conservative flat borough budget were passed.
Just like every budget year the assembly giveth and they taketh away. Often the proverbial shell game is used to move funds from one spot to another spot that is likely more supportive of an assembly members own district or perhaps a quest for empire building. However, some would claim it is really based on satisfying future voters in upcoming elections. All par for the course and this year is no exception.
Oops, Wait a Minute There
Mr. Arvin then promptly filed a notice to reconsider the motion to adopt the budget the very next day with the clerk.
Buyer’ remorse or deeper darker out of the public view motive to create more sound bites, press releases in an election year or pick off a few more victims not dancing to the tune of the orchestra leader? The frontiersman is reporting that "after voting for the budget he spent time agonizing over it. “The budget contains a hike — albeit a small one — in taxes over last year”. Huh? Say what? We know his district has become his second home but is earth his second planet? Has he been absent from his district so much he hasn't seen the decline in borough services with the constant slashing of the mill rate while the population is exploding like nowhere else in the state or country for that matter? Did he miss the memo that prices for goods for everyone including the borough have gone up at an exponential rate?
In the article Mr. Arvin went on to say that "he spent some time with borough staff and found a little-used fund for major repair and renovations that had the $1.7 million he needed to reduce the tax rate to flat over last year." Really? He and others on the assembly while doing their due diligence just happened to miss $1.7 million dollars laying around? He must have lots of faith that his fellow assemblyman Mr. Colver has squirreled away enough for renovating his empires.
World is not Flat
Does the assembly think that the people of the borough will continue to be fooled by lowering the mill rate year after year and not question how that is related to an even worse level of service? Will they just shrug their shoulders the next time the borough goes to borrow bond money and they might see the borough credit rating has fallen? Will it cost taxpayers more because the assembly refused to heed the advice of their hired consultant to keep savings revenues healthy? Has anyone noticed that cuts for operating the borough are already cutting into those funds at a dangerous pace?
The borough has over 70 aging buildings, facilities, sheds, etc that total over 150,000 square feet and that’s not under just one leaking roof. But speaking of leaking roofs, does the public works department receive instruction on a priority ranking for disasters for shrinking funds despite being continuously asked to do more with less funding regardless of more demand for services? Does a frozen building when the heat is out trump a flooded one when the pipes break? Does a caved in roof rise to the top over a building on fire? Guess the good news is the cost of Divine Intervention has gone down if the borough now needs no savings for emergency repairs.
Raiders of the Lost Coffers
This can’t be good news either for Assemblyman Mr. Colver who has successfully raided money from all kinds of savings and unspent capital and operational kitties to justify his own special projects this second round on the assembly for things like his favorite Charter School, Administration Buildings or no doubt more planned projects. Hmm we think he has mentioned his desire to build a big sports dome. That lost race to the piggy bank must sting. Sage Assemblyman Mr. Woods concerned through the whole budget process and the fate of the shrinking dollar will have less dollars to fret over. Assemblyman Salmon who has made it clear he doesn't think part of the job of the assembly is micro-managing, meeting excessively or wasting words or actions can’t be too happy about dragging back to yet another special meeting in borough chambers to satisfy Mr. Arvin's angst over casting a vote. He must be caught in some serious deja vu as he recalls the mill rate now is nearly the same as it was in 1998 when he was mayor of the borough.
Does this overnight revelation of Mr. Arvin and his fleeting approval now bring back for further plucking of the budget turkey carcass to give more time to make villains of public employees and government and keep the microscope off of the cost of certain assembly member micro-managing and their own skyrocketing costs of doing business? Reported increases in the assembly and mayor expenses with travel, mileage reimbursement and teleconferencing have gone through the roof but that’s not part of any conversation thus far. Is the public not suppose to notice or ask about the cost of doing business the way it was done in the past in relation to how it’s happening now? Let’s not forget that three seated at the horseshoe served in the past. Who are the power brokers they are serving?
Cutting In or Cutting Us Out
Very troubling is Mr. Arvin's successful amendment adopted to cut 25 percent across the board (except for 3 exempt departments including the assembly) to already drastically trimmed employee overtime about saving money or does it just create an opportunity for less public oversight? Staff attendance to answer questions at Assembly meetings has already been severely limited by this assembly and ceremonial mayor. What is the fate of any opportunity to ask borough staff questions at future assembly meetings, community councils, road service boards, or at any evening public meeting? Do all public meetings have to be held during the day so that borough staff can attend and who gets priority? Is it the person on the phone or visiting the borough for assistance, the chair of the board impatiently standing at the doorway hand on hip waiting for staff to come to the meeting during the workday? Or does the assemblyman showing up for information cut in line in front of everyone during the 8-hour workday? When are there enough full buckets under the leaking roof to call in for after hour repairs or do we get more buckets?
Will borough voters forget that many of these same elected officials thought a ferry currently sitting in dry dock was just the project we needed and continue to direct piles of taxpayer money into a port that has yet to prove itself up while taxpayers foot the bill and funds are directed from other badly needed infrastructure projects?
What did Assemblyman Mr. Colligan mean after lending support for an amendment offered by Mr. Colver that he was doing so reluctantly because he thought "there are many half pregnant plans" at the borough? It sure seems that a lot of fully pregnant women could give birth before this assembly can make a decision that’s in the public interest, limit their process or is firmly wrapped around the axel of political party or ideology that’s for sure.
Can we get you more tea at this point?
What did Assemblyman Mr. Colver mean when he said during public testimony "some day there would be a reckoning"? Could he mean future assemblies and taxpayers will be left to mop up the financial hairball that is left while Mr. Colver slides back to claim his old seat on the school board or grab the ring of some other elected seat while claiming to save the day while he continues his "Colverizing " way of doing business. A word we could offer a meaning to if Webster would accept it in their dictionary.
Just part of a fluid process or preparation for knee jerk reaction ahead?
Right now we know that the off again on again, previously not needed Special Monday evening meeting that Radio Free Palmer will stream live to listeners will consider the budget is now on again to address Mr. Arvin’s concerns. Having fun yet? And you haven’t even had a chance to see what the ceremonial mayor has up his dusty sleeve. Pure politics at work here folks. Somebody pull back the curtain. Pretty sure that statue of Ayn Rand has been joined with one of Ron Paul.