Mayor’s Article March 4, 2011—-
I am going to focus on just one topic, that topic being how capital improvements and operating expenses are linked and the impact that linkage has on government expenses. Simply stated, capital improvements are new things. Operating expenses mostly go to the personnel that monitor, maintain and service those improvements.
From comments I have heard, it appears that some citizens are confused about the above relationship. For example I am hearing that 2A was supposed to go only to roads and 2B only to capital expenditures for parks, recreation and cultural support. I urge you to read the ballot language. In both cases it clearly states the funds derived from both ballot issues go to both the capital and the operational side of Salida’s budget. Why do I think clarity on this issue is important? We all like new things. Whether the new things are improvements to the pool, or fixing roads, or park improvements, we love to find something new that we can see and use in our city. What we have ignored is the fact that every improvement demands maintenance. Maintenance is done by people and those city employees that do the maintenance are paid from the operational side of the budget.
An example of this are the bathrooms arrayed throughout the City. Every single one of them, including the new boat ramp bathroom, has been vandalized. The bathroom in Alpine Park is vandalized regularly. These public bathrooms are worthwhile and necessary capital improvements, but as we add these facilities more time will be taken for routine cleaning and not so routine repair of the aforementioned thoughtless damage.
The narrow passage of 2A and 2B is one of the major reasons the City remains in good financial condition. Currently we are down about 7% from Salida’s highest revenue collection year (this is not counting the increased revenue created by 2A and 2B). Compared to other governments through out the state and country that is very good. The citizens of Salida should be proud of stepping up to offer a key part of the solution to funding government improvements and existing services by passing 2A and 2B. (It should not be believable when politicians say they will fix the fiscal problems of government by just cutting spending. The only real approach will be to reduce government services and to increase taxation. Any other rhetoric that is offered is just an attempt to get your vote. It is not a realistic proposition.)
In the current economic situation it is inevitable and necessary that the Federal Government reduces its spending. As that occurs funding for all other governments will diminish. It seems to me to be irresponsible to continue to add capital improvement expenditures to Salida’s budget at this time. Every time a new capital improvement is added we are adding long term maintenance expense. To continually add new services and capital improvements will necessitate an increased operational budget for the years those services and improvements exist. This can only be affordable by increasing fees and taxes or shifting what revenue we have towards maintenance.
Government is here to serve. But it all comes down to revenue. As revenue diminishes our expectations of what all governments can do should also diminish. Now is the time to consider what are the core services Salida should provide and how we, the citizens, are willing to pay for them.