For those who might have missed it, there’s a good chance the country is going through one of the worst financial crises of its history. Unfortunately, unless an Ole Seagull misses his guess, most of our Federal leaders, both elected and non-elected, are like a lot of us and don’t have a clue as to what is going on. Yet, those same leaders are spending hundreds of billions of our tax dollars pretending to fix a problem that has yet to be defined.
The city of Branson is currently going through some budget challenges but at least, in an Ole Seagull’s opinion, the problem is fairly simple to understand. Simply put, the city is spending more than it is taking in.
The fix is simple spend less than is coming in. But that’s where things start getting complicated because there are basically two ways for that to happen reduce expenses or increase revenues. City staff, the mayor, and the board of aldermen and the city’s Budget and Finance Committee have been working diligently to try to reduce operating expenditures for the 2009 budget. Unfortunately, the result is anticipated General Fund Revenues of $15,440,350 versus Expenditures of $16,787,967 for an anticipated 2009 operating deficit of about $1,347,617.
In fact, even in the face of the “budget caution light” the budgeted General Fund expenses of $16,787.967 for 2009 exceed the projected 2008 expenses from that same fund of $16,149,452 by about $599,000 or four percent. That does not say too much about the effectiveness of using expenses reduction as an efficient tool to reduce Branson’s deficit.
The situation becomes a tad more complicated when one considers debt service, hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to private developers by the city for things like common area maintenance, the operational loss involved with the city’s convention center and the capital improvement expenses needed for roads, sewer, water, fire and police equipment and facilities, etc.
By now it is probably dawning on most readers that the most probably answer will involve, as it did at the federal level, a bailout based on the backs of its citizens and businesses. Some might ask, “Why is it a bailout?”
To that an Ole Seagull would say, as was the case at the federal level, the budget situation in Branson was created by the decisions that its elected and unelected leaders made. What’s particularly sad in the local case is that the decisions were intentionally made whereas as at the federal level they, more often than not, were made by omission or failure to act.
Two examples illustrate the point. The first is hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to maintain common areas of a private developer’s development. The second is the city not only building and financing a commercial laundry as part of its convention center in its zeal to make sure a hotel was built in association with it, but, if the information presented at a recent Budget and Finance Committee is accurate, entering into a contract whereby hundreds of thousands of pounds of laundry are being processed for two local area hotels for about $.22 per pound instead of the going rate of about $.50 per pound.
How will the bailout be on the backs of its citizens? Water and sewer rates were already on the way to new heights. The 2009 budget contains $50,000 for a sewer and water rate study. Anyone want to bet whether they will be paying more or less for sewer and water in the not too distant future? Can anyone envision their personal property real estate taxes going up? Is it unreasonable to expect that user fees will continue to rise? How about impact fees on developers?
Oh and let’s not forget about cutting back on infrastructure improvements such as Fall Creek (Epps) Road even though the voters that voted for the city Transportation Tax were promised it would be completed. Would one be making a bad bet if they bet it would be the individual residential and business taxpayer that will bear the brunt of getting rid of Branson’s budget deficit? An Ole Seagull doesn’t think so.