ACES – Ashland Citizens for Economic Sustainability – Introduction

Published in the Sneak Preview, September issue.

Introducing

ACES – Ashland Citizens for Economic Sustainability

Our mayor and city council have been burning through our tax dollars at an unsustainable rate.

  • Ashland’s budget has increased 83% since 2009 to almost equal that of Medford, a city with 4.5 times our population.
  • The average annual total compensation for 268 Ashland city employees is $127,610 per FTE, an increase of 151% in the same time period. Furthermore, there is no plan in place to address dramatically rising health care and PERS costs over the next few years.
  • Our city reserves are virtually non-existent – $38,000 against a bi-annual operating budget of $177 million (two hundredths of one percent). Most cities with emergency contingency reserves designate a minimum of 10%.
  • Utility rates have skyrocketed – water is up 140% over the last 8 years and electricity 52% and they are projected to increase even further.  The taxes, surcharges and fees on your utility bill are $87.50 per month before you use a drop of water or kilowatt of electricity.
  • Hundreds of thousands of dollars are wasted on hiring consultants to perform studies that yield little, if any benefit.
  • The mayor and city council have not only disregarded the recommendations of our Citizen Budget Committee but have also severely limited and controlled their meetings and activity.

ACES was formed to educate Ashlanders about what we perceive as gross fiscal irresponsibility on the part of our city representatives.  City officials must better prioritize how they spend our hard earned tax dollars.  Our goal is to arm our citizenry with the facts so we will all be able to effectively assess candidates running for city office and demand good fiscal stewardship for our city in the future.

We will ask the tough questions on current issues, for example:

  • Why did the number of business license renewals fall last year to the lowest level since 2011 despite substantial tax dollars spent on economic development? How does this business environment impact tax revenues and the Ashland economy?
  • Why has the city allocated $200,000 for a study to determine where a new city hall will be built?  Where would the money come from and does the fact that our current one isn’t seismically adequate justify spending $15 million plus for a new one?
  • Why did the city hire 4 new policemen after the Citizens Budget Committee voted against it, when there was no corresponding increase in crime or population and no available funds to pay for them?  To cover the expense, the city had to impose three new taxes on utilities, entertainment and lodging.
  • Why did the city purchase Briscoe School which comes with millions of dollars in deferred costs without a clear purpose?
  • Will the city now reduce water rates since they project having $29.8M set aside in the water fund by the end of the 2017-2019 budget?

Please visit our website at www.ashlandaces.com to learn about these and other issues in more depth.  Please join us in letting our city representatives know that we are watching and we care.

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//inserted by Sharon