Budget Kabuki 2012

I see the misinformers and demagogues are out in full swing now given the release of the city of Amsterdam budget numbers. Remember kids, their intent is not to simplify or clarify the budget process but to muddy it and to leverage it for political purposes.

Let me simplify it a bit:

– The budget is preliminary and as such, it is equivalent to a wish list. Therefore, any tax rate projection as of today is wholly meaningless.

– The budget is owned — by city charter — by a committee and as I’ve mentioned ad nauseum on this blog, that means no one owns the budget. This is why we get the kabuki to begin with versus having the mayor own and submitting a budget that reflects some editing of the department requests. The budget committee assures a dysfunctional, inefficient process.

–While the budget is now owned by the mayor from a governance and management perspective, the budget is “owned” by the mayor as it reflects a tax increase, consistent with the narrative that Mayor Thane actively seeks to elevate taxes well above a 50% increases. I can assure you that if the budget were projecting a decrease in tax rates, every single member of of the common council and even the county supervisors would own the budget.

— I see that a nice chunk of the projected tax increase comes from debt payments. Hmm, what is the big expense we fund through debt– ah yes, demolition! But let’s just remind ourselves of that as demolition is a higher good and as we share services with the county ,we never pay for demolition. If you believe in it, it must be true. And remember kids, we have a lot more demolition on the wish list so if you think that debt service is high now, just stay tuned.

–I see the budget seeks to fill a Community and Economic Development role. That will never fly as we should never look for growth or demand solutions; we only need to focus on expenses. Of course, we find ourselves here today in terms of budgets and tax rates in large part due to the lack of growth but let’s keep doing more of the same– investing precisely zero in growth and demand policies.

–I see that we need to bring outside “advisors” who know budgets and who can “help” with the budget. Funny, I thought that is why we held elections so elected officials can shape budget policy. Isn’t that the genius of the charter change to make controller an elected position so a new controller can reengineer the budget process every four years.

The bottom line is this: we have a dysfunctional budget process and we have a budget that never provides resources or investments for growth as they will be struck down.

That is why you have kabuki, year-in-year out and when all the demagoguery and misinformation shapes budget policy, you can rest assured that nothing is being done to help lower taxes and drive home values in the medium and long-term.

I am quite certain that when the budget hits in 2013 and for every year thereafter, I can simply cut-and-paste this exact post and it will be wholly relevant.

 

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