David Runkel Letter to the Mayor and Council Regarding the New Bond

Dear Ashland City Council Members:

            For two significant reasons, I urge you to table without consideration the agenda item entitled “Mayor Presentation Capital Needs and Financing” which proposes issuing a 20-year bond to pay for four construction projects, would impose a live performance ticket tax and amend the 2019-21 city budget to add back positions eliminated last year to balance the city’s current $252.6 million budget.

            First, these proposals were formulated behind closed doors by what appears to be a hand-picked group of like-minded people, directly contrary to the motion you approved last June to establish an ad hoc committee “to investigate revenue options specifically related to sustainability and resilience in the city of Ashland.”  Council voted five to one in favor of setting up this ad hoc group which would have been required by state law to meet in public.  The Citizens Budget Committee had recommended the committee on a 13 to 0 vote.

The mayor’s group did not include any current or past citizen members of the Budget Committee, or other outside person with experience and interest in city financing.  It would seem appropriate, and in keeping with the spirit of the Budget Committee and Council votes, for a wide variety of viewpoints to have been considered before a multi-million-dollar revenue raising proposal was brought to you for consideration.

Secondly, consideration of this proposal is premature since the cost cutting ad hoc committee which you also created in at the June 4 Council meeting has not completed its work, which incidentally is being done at meetings being held in public with minutes available for Ashland taxpayers to review.  This panel looking at ways to save tax money includes a variety of Ashlanders, including present and past citizen Budget Committee members. 

How is it possible for you to review and possibly vote on one aspect of the city’s current dire financial position without having any recommendations from the other panel?  In fact, shouldn’t cost cutting come before revenue raising?  That’s the way it usually works.

At next Tuesday’s meeting, I urge you to put aside the mayor’s proposal for additional spending and taxing to await the cost-cutting ad hoc committee’s report by moving to immediately table this agenda item. In the meantime, perhaps you should proceed to establish the public ad hoc revenue committee in keeping with your June 4 decision which has not been rescinded.  

With appreciation for the time and energy you spend on behalf of our city,

David Runkel

Budget Committee Member