ACES – Ashland Citizens for Economic Sustainability: CHAPTER THREE

ACES – Ashland Citizens for Economic Sustainability: CHAPTER THREE

In the October 2018 Sneak Preview, Ashland Mayor Stromberg claimed that critics of the city’s finances used incorrect numbers when showing dramatic increases in the Ashland city budget from 2009 to the present. He also claimed the budget was just too complex and difficult for Ashlanders to figure out. The numbers we critics have been using are those published by the city itself – the numbers Ashland has submitted annually to the State of Oregon as the city’s official numbers.

We asked Ashland City Staff to help reconcile our numbers. It turns out that instead of the official budget, they use incomplete numbers from OpenGov, new city software recently purchased to improve transparency. They could not explain the differences between the official published numbers and those from their own accounting system.

Here are just a few pertinent facts:

  • Expenditures in our operating budget have grown over 72% from an officially published $54.1M in 2008-09* to an OpenGov report of $93.2M** last year. City officials and their friends have been bandying about a 45% increase to counter the narrative that the budget has gotten out of control. We highly encourage you to go to the published numbers and do the math yourself (references below.)
  • Truly alarming is the $154 M projected operating expense for FY 2018-19 on OpenGov**. This would result in an almost unimaginable 185% increase over a 10 year period. While it is possible that the city will come in under budget as they did for 2017-18 and mitigate that increase somewhat, Council has the power to spend all $154 M. Once the election is over, perhaps that’s exactly what will happen.
  • The Ashland budget for a city of 21,000 is almost the same as Medford’s with 4 times the population. The typical response from Council is that Ashland is different. However, until 2009, the budget was much more in line with the population and nothing about Ashland has changed since then.
  • Our elected city officials have funded large capital improvement projects (CIP’s) by dramatically increasing our utility bills. The base rate before usage is now a whopping $90/month ($1,080 a year) for every Ashland residence and our water rates have increased over 150% since 2009. In an era of historically low interest rates, why weren’t CIP projects funded using debt? It’s obviously much easier to get a majority vote of the Council then it is to obtain voter approval for costly and perhaps unnecessary projects.

While the Mayor and Council may consider Ashland’s finances complex, we think the numbers speak loud and clear. Please visit the website at www.ashlandaces.com to see many more examples of the poor fiscal stewardship we are getting in Ashland from our elected city officials.

*Adopted FY 2011-12 Budget page 1-33, http://www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=8316

** ashlandor.opengov.com “Annual” section ACES is a PAC registered with the Oregon Secretary of State and supported by the citizens of Ashland.

//inserted by Sharon