Last week a current city council member published the following statement in the local print “newspaper:”
“I voted for the EDC, known as Prop 1, and I’m 100 percent for it. In as much as it is a tax funded entity I’ve never understood the ‘free lunch’ concept as promoted. When the city is obliged to pay around half million dollars a year that has not been paid in the past, to me that is an additional burden on the taxpayer. If I can figure this out, I’m gonna be driving a new Lincoln pickup Platinum.”
My first thought was: “Why couldn’t he and other like-minded members of our city council have said this BEFORE the election in which the voters adopted Prop 1, after being told that its adoption would impose no “additional burden” on the taxpayer. You’ll remember what the pro Prop 1 propaganda assured us—no new taxes, and no service cuts; in other words, no new burdens. An admission by our elected “leaders” that passage of Prop 1 would impose “an additional burden on the taxpayer” would have added some honesty to whatever debate might have ensued over the matter.
But at least we’ll soon get to see how the city council tries to “figure this out,” as it begins examining proposals and data for the budget for fiscal year 2016, which begins October 1, 2015. The budget-related meetings this summer, wherein citizens and staff submit budget requests which the city council then examines, are open to the public, and I strongly encourage everyone interested in the process to attend these sessions. Should they do, they’ll be able to see how the council wrestles with the overall issues of taxes and spending.
Of course, the newest issue will be the integration of Prop 1’s mandates into the government’s structure and programs. The soon-to-be created “tax funded entity” (the new Economic Development Corporation) will require a Director, at least according to the “newspaper.” What salary will come with the position has not yet been announced, but when the Mayor proposed, during my last term on the council, the creation of the new position of economic development coordinator, he recommended a price tag of $100,000 for salary and other expenses related to the position (by the way, I voted against its creation, thinking the money could be better used for infrastructure). And of course there’s the overall impact that the diversion of funds to “economic development” projects as required by Prop 1 will have on the programs from which the funds must be diverted.
Of particular interest, to me at least, will be the fate of the Pay Plan UNANIMOUSLY adopted by the city council in the spring of 2014, just before the election that year. It mandated an overall increase in salaries and benefits by about $900,000 per year, to be phased in over a two and a half year period. If “around half a million dollars” are to be diverted to “economic development,” what will become of the salary increases EVERYONE on the council voted for?
And let’s not forget the city council’s directive to the city administrator to reduce the budget by 5 percent, despite the Prop 1 and Pay Plan mandates.
When I gave my farewell speech to the city council a year ago I said I was relieved not to have to try to “figure out” how the city council could spend more when the voters obviously oppose tax increases to pay for the spending. I still am. And quite frankly, I think that if our city council can “figure out” how to spend more money on “economic development” projects, on an increasing payroll, on the natural increase in the costs of services due to inflation, and do so without raising taxes or cutting services anywhere as our Chamber of Commerce promised while the city council remained silent, then each of our elected “leaders” should receive a new Lincoln pickup Platinum.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.