Budget Post Series 1 of 2
$202,263,889 2020 fiscal year Budget
When elected by the residents of Ward 4 and entrusted to represent our taxpayers, I made a promise to be the voice of our residents, YOU. I believe the budget process is not a spectator event. The budget process is a substantial responsibility of the city council and one that I take with great gravity and great due diligence. Part of the budget process is to ask questions. We ask questions so that we can fully understand and vet out the budget. It prepares us/me to make those decisions when the time comes to vote on the budget. I know that if ever questioned by my constituents, I can answer intelligently and honestly as to “Why?, there was an increase in the budget or, “What?” has changed. That is being a good steward of our residents’ hard-earned tax dollars. As a councilman, my job is to keep taxes affordable for my residents and vote on a budget that is sustainable long term. We have a high population on social security. We had recent home evaluations that will certainly increase home taxes. We just had an increase in water rates. My responsibility is to make sure our residents can continue to afford to live in their homes and our city. The Mayor can label my questions and inquire as to a “political game”, however, this is the process needed. The following are reasons why I did not vote in favor of the proposed budget:
1. The budget was proposed with the assumption of what the Home re-evaluation numbers will be in December. I argued that the new numbers should be included in the next budget cycle, rather than guessing what it will be in this budget.
2. The hiring of twelve additional employees utilizing the ARPA money without discussion. What will happen when that funding runs out in 2026? How will YOU, the taxpayer pay for the additional twelve employees? When the federal funds run out, there will be a big hit to the city, at least a few million, but that does not seem to concern this mayor or the council majority.
3. In the Mayor’s budget statement, the Mayor states that the overall increase will be further reduced to zero should the city receive additional federal grant funding for the Fire Department. A city budget should not be balanced in hopes of what funding might be available. The budget should be balanced on what is known now, real numbers.
4. In a 2022 Interactive Budget Book Report- General Fund- City General Revenues, two line items stand out.
a. State Aid (school housing) an additional 4.4 million in state aid was given to the city. This is what saved the city in a huge tax increase. Will this be the same next year? Are we prepared as a city if the state decides not to fund the same amount next year? b. The motor vehicle budget and amount billed should be dropping because of the phase-out. The motor vehicle amount lost in billing is realized as an increase in state aid. Although the city will be losing the motor vehicle billing revenue, the overall budgeted tax revenue has increased. We need to know what other categories make up for the motor vehicle billing loss. Is it current year residential and commercial or collections of prior year taxes? What is the increase in levy expectation for 2022? Will it be 3.5 % as allowable max by Charter? Which was the increase last year as well.
5. There have been significant increases in department salaries and part-time line items, with no explanation.
My final question: Unless you do the math yourself, wherein the proposed 2022 budget indicates a need to approve an appropriation of $202,263,889 for the fiscal year 2022, as voted on last Tuesday night? This is a dangerous budget and WE will be paying for it in the years to come.
Councilman Ricardo Mourato
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