At one of the City Commission meetings, Ms. Ard wanted to set the record straight by announcing at the end of the year that she had balanced the budget. Right after her announcement, one commissioner wanted to set the reporter straight by telling him that, not five, but seven commissioners passed a deficit budget at the beginning of the year.
I always thought the commissioners were required to pass a balanced budget at the beginning of the year and not at the end of the year. It is risky to give the citizens a false sense of security that the deficit can turn into a balanced budget at the end of the year. Maybe the budget will balance and maybe it won’t be able to balance out.
An explanation soon followed whether we should call the expected shortfall a deficit or a gap in funding. It seems that the city was way too conservative with estimating the figures. The fact remains that the commissioners do not vote on passing a balanced budget at the end of the year. City Hall has a habit of twisting up the words to suit their justification of making things come out correctly.
I don’t think the city can be too overly conservative with so much uncertainty in the economy. Most of the city’s revenue is based on income tax (46%); admissions tax (18%); property tax (11%); and Hotel/motel tax (8%). As the economy declines, the first thing that is eliminated from the family budget is recreation so the revenues can get pretty unstable at times.
Next year’s budget doesn’t look any better but wait, the city thinks they can place a band aid on all of it by restructuring the bonds and taking on more debt. Some people have almost convinced the city to go further into debt by relocating City Hall and never mind that the taxpayer has to pick up the tab. It is risky business for any bank to think the city can pull off restructuring the bonds by possibly using tourists dollars as collateral.
The city needs to pay off more debt and take care of some housekeeping items in town before placing anymore tax dollars at risk. We need leadership to be responsible enough to just say no to debt spending and to hold the line on the budget.
Until next week, I hope the citizens will pay close attention in the next few months and not be taken in by the deception of word definitions.