Speaking Truth to Power – City’s Budget Is in Trouble, Yet Council Hires Two New Police Officers!

Another Citizen Speaks Truth to Power  —-
Last night our Mayor & City Council agreed to fund the hiring of TWO additional police officers (which makes 4 new hires in total) since the latest budget was approved in June with ANOTHER surcharge set to hit our monthly utility bills. The new charges will likely start (+$2.50 month) from July 2018. Lacking any prioritization, vision or strategy the council fumbled around with several short-term funding ideas for the additional police staff, all of which included either increased surcharges, higher taxes, or fees on the citizens of Ashland. Yes, although there were two city councillors who said we shouldn’t add to utility costs, considering the city has been looking into this police staffing issue for the last several years, I find it incredible that there were no suggestions or tangible ideas presented by staff, the mayor or the council as to where the city could cut costs to offset these additional expenditures.
The Mayor urged the council to find a solution for funding the hiring of these two additional police because the city was facing a ($1.7ml) deficit in the General Fund. The actual figure is a ($2.4ml deficit), highlighted on page 3-6 of the budget, which the council will need to address during this budget cycle. What this means in its simplest form is our city is overspending. Expenditures are outpacing revenues by over $1ml a year. This obviously can not continue! Based on the fact that the city budget is up +50% the last 8 years I expect the Mayor and Council will vote for higher fees, surcharges and taxes rather that doing the hard work of prioritizing how we spend on the process, people and projects essential to our citizens of Ashland.
In June, I was one of several citizen members of the budget committee, who called out the city for its unfettered spending and advocated for fiscal constraint. We were ignored. We did present to the Mayor and council several options to consolidate city operations and departments which would have resulted in reduced costs to the city yet again we were ignored. Brace yourself as the 2019 budget projects a ($5ml) deficit and the 2021 budget is projecting a ($10ml) deficit in the General Fund and there are no spending cuts in sight!
Our city is clearly on very dangerous fiscal path. I have been unrelenting in my efforts to call out the lack of fiscal transparency and wasteful spending in our city. The City Hall discussion is yet another example of what I see to be a wasteful allocation of city resources. I wanted to highlight that I made a mistake in my last email to you about the pressing need for a new City Hall in Ashland. Having already spend $70,000 in the last budget on City Hall ideas I mistakenly said that in this budget the city has set aside $40,000 for conceptual models for a new City Hall but in my correspondence with the city I have learned that the city actually budgeted $80,000 for these conceptual designs. Really, how can the city justify raising our taxes and increasing fees for essential city services yet budget $80,000 for models of a City Hall we arguably don’t need? I stand by what I said before and that is …I have learned that when our city council cant make a decision they often revert to studies or consultants and try to offload the decision process to an outside entity at taxpayer expense …this time it wont be another $40,000, but $80,000.. Things need to change!
I have attached a link to the city website. I know you are all incredibly busy but I urge you to join me and become more interested and involved in our city. This will be especially important as we approach the mid-term city elections this November. Send this email to others you think might be concerned but take a minute and send the mayor and city council an e-mail and say that this crazy spending needs to end and that you need them to start prioritizing how they spend our tax dollars or our families and our city will suffer.
Best Wishes for a wonderful 2018!
Shaun Moran