Friday, April 06, 2007

Arbor District email - analysis of the budget and other information

I think Jane Adams is a Sheila supporter, but here it is another of Sheila's big issues, the Carbondale Budget problems, shown to be bogus.

There are several developments that we are noting:

1) Councilman Steven Haynes has released the letter from Smoke Free Carbondale that called upon him as an African American to vote for their anti-smoking proposal. The letter was the reason that Haynes abstained in the first vote. He has said publicly that he was offended at the use of the "race card" in the debate. The offending letter was sent by Dr. Mary Pohlmann who is a candidate for City Council.

2) The Southern Illinoisan has a piece today about the rise of partisanship in the Carbondale Mayoral election.

Our neighbor Linz Brown sent out a note on the budget recently. Here is another view by Jane Adams:


As I read Linz's note, the city appears to be in very good shape, with quite a surplus over the required minimum fund balance, and several years before any anticipated problems. I really don't understand why the budget has become framed as critical this year. It seems to me a far more productive debate would be over city priorities -- which is what the budget process is all about. (There's something ironic about the liberal Democrat framing herself as a fiscal conservative and suggesting that her conservative Republican opponent is a spendthrift! If you live long enough, politics have a way of shifting under one's feet.)

Note that Linz's figures are for the General Fund only. As Doherty's reply to Chris Wissmann's inquiry showed, some of the city's major expenditures are in other funds. For example, road improvements are paid for from the Motor Fuel Tax Fund, and other expenditures are in the Community Investment Fund. I don't know where potential federal and state grants are obtained for specific projects would be indicated in the budget.

In fact, I am not sure how Linz's figures relate to the purported $6 million dollar shortfall which I believe is his point. I hope that he will extend the analysis to all of the budget aside from the General Fund.

It seems that the major areas of debate deal with 1) new police and code inspectors; 2) summer work for high school kids (and whether the clean up program should be summer only).

Other concerns I've heard raised deal with the road surfacing program (paid from the Motor Fuel Tax Fund).

Some time back we (Arbor District) were asked to send our suggestions to the City for consideration in the budget. We provided a list of alternative infrastructure investments, including installing storm drains and sidewalks in parts of the core city that do not have these amenities, restoring the old brick streets that have been paved over, installing attractive street lights in the older parts of the city, and acquiring properties for parks in the core areas of the city. To my knowledge, none of the candidates has addressed these citizen concerns, except perhaps the issue of parks. I have not heard if any of our requests are included in the budget.

I expect Sheila's proposals for retrofitting various city properties with green technologies and Brad's proposal to redevelop Piles Fork Creek would need new monies, though I haven't heard how either would pay for these programs.

No one on this exchange has addressed where the new city inspector or the 8 new police officers will be/are in the budget. I understood that they have been included in this year's budget and out year projections. Is this correct?

I understand that the funds for several additional code inspectors that Brad Cole proposed will come from an inspection fee on rental properties -- something that the Arbor District has advocated for some time.

Because we're entering the budget debate a bit late, and with insufficient knowledge of how the budget works, I think it might be useful for us to sponsor a training session on the budget for any interested members of the Arbor District. Next year we would then have a far better handle on these things.

Doherty seems to be very competent in keeping the city in the black; I have never heard anything to the contrary, so I think we can trust his statements regarding the budget being in good shape, with some concerns down the road.

Jane Adams
It confuses me how Sheila and the gang can know so little about the budget. There isn't even a buzz on the street that the budget is a problem, except when Sheila makes it a campaign issue. Is it that if you understand business and budgets, that you are by default a Cole supporter? How did Sheila and Company get this so wrong?

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