Congratulations are in order to city staff. At the City Council workshop of April 16, 2013 working in an atmosphere where the current city council is loathe to make any budget cuts that are associated with layoffs and in fact wants to add additional police and fire positions is difficult, to say the very least. The cuts that this council will not accept remain necessary even as they collectively stick their heads in the sand.
Staff, knowing that cuts to the budget will not be accepted, took the obverse approach and has offered this council revenue enhancement. It seems that raising property taxes and collecting additional revenue from the Enterprise Funds for services provided by the General Fund may be the answer. This is not the final solution, however. As Ms. Schurhammer stated today, budget cuts, albeit more modest ones, are still needed and the sooner the better. As she and the rest of staff have said repeatedly the city’s budget has a structural deficit. In other words, more is spent than is taken in.
It was noted that Vice Mayor Knaack, a member in good standing for many years, of the “gang of four” (voting bloc of the former mayor), now repudiates the former mayor’s imperative to keep the city’s property tax rate low. She actually had the temerity to say that she never supported the former mayor’s desire to keep property taxes artificially low. Too bad she never spoke out publicly or demonstrated her beliefs in a vote.
Councilmember Chavira once again, embarrassingly and obviously, carried fire’s water bucket in an attempt to get this council to support granting the 15 fire fighter positions (at a cost of $1.5M every year) coveted by the fire department. If one didn’t know his agenda all one had to do was watch his performance in feeding positive questions to the Fire Chief to immediately figure it out. Every once in a while he would throw the police department a bone by including them in the discussion but his sole objective was to advance the cause of his brother firefighters. Mr. Bowers, Interim City Manager, made it very clear that the staff recommendation is to deny any supplemental requests this year including those of fire and police. His reasoning was straight forward and quite clear, “The city simply does not have the money.” This time, at least for now, council listened and it appears that these supplementals will not be granted. This council is not quite done with this subject. I suspect they will look for other means to grant, at the very least, fire’s supplemental.
Councilmember Sherwood once again raised the question as to whether a figure of $6M was adequate for the arena costs. He became a little confused in attempting to get the figure of annual revenue the arena generated (not all of Westgate…and the western world…thank you) out. Well, we, dear readers, already know what that figure is from a previous blog where I conveyed the average numbers reported by the NHL as the manager of the arena. Ta Da! That revenue figure averages $6 to $7 million annually. No one else on council seemed interested in a workshop on arena costs and revenues so it died as a future topic.
Councilmember Alvarez appears to have only two songs in her repertoire. One is the siren song to support the Tohono O’odham in its quest to plant a casino in Glendale less than a quarter mile away from Westgate. Again she called for a public forum (read free favorable publicity for the Tohono O’odham) before council. Again, she was rejected by a majority of the council. Does she not understand that the city is a party to state and Tribal interest litigation against the casino?
Her other one-note song is blaming others for her belief in the city’s continual waste of money. Please note it is a waste of money to her if it is not being spent to increase the salaries of its low wage employees. Her public definition of low wage employees is anyone making under $130,000. My goodness…reminds me of Obama’s definition of the rich ($250K annually, for tax purposes)! Today’s rant on city waste was twofold: the absolute waste of the city’s involvement in Camelback Ranch and the car dealership coming finally to Bell Road with the city’s incentive to forgive a portion of sales tax for a specified amount of time. She refuses to understand that the dollar a year rental of Camelback Ranch for the teams is in exchange for their picking up the tab for operating and maintaining the facility year round (saving the city a cost of easily a million dollars a year). Instead of taking the time to truly understand the issue we hear her accusations of the city being too busy thinking of the glory of sports and not realizing that sports bring the city nothing. What she fails to realize that as part of this new council she bears the same baggage as the rest of them. On her watch the dealership will come in. Therefore on her watch the dealership will receive the sales tax incentive.