Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Financial Planning Committee meets for last time

As indicated at the public hearing and reported today in the Ferndale Patch, the Financial Planning Committee appointed by council in September will meet for the last time tonight to finalize its January 10 presentation to city council.

One of the things that gets lost in the talk of tax increases is the $8 million in cuts they've proposed over the next five years. Not enough to balance the budget, but cuts have something a tax increase doesn't have--certainty.

The tax increase isn't a sure thing. If voters aren't convinced council will stop spending on discretionary expenses, work as diligently on consolidating services as they do remodeling, and advocate for regional cooperation as much as they do the DDA, I don't see why voters would approve giving them more money--even to fill a hole--to indulge their appetites.

Cost cuts, however, are a sure thing, or can be, and they don't have to wait for an election. Of course, many of the cuts and restrained spending the financial committee will recommend are items council is already aware of and had within their power to act on already.

So maybe even cuts are as uncertain as a tax increase.

Residents need also to be wary of anyone claiming the tax increase is necessary to preserve Ferndale's "quality of life."  Great food is important to my quality of life, but under financial pressure I must cut-back on steaks, pork tenderloins, and lamb chops for more "affordable" fare and eliminate expensive whiskey altogether.

Ferndale faces similar choices.  Does it keep the Kulick Center or not?  Does it keep its own police or not?  Does it operate its own jail or not?  Remember that even if all the preceding (and others) are or-not'ted the city will still have places for seniors to meet, police, and a place to hold suspects--it just may not own them.  Not everything will have a "City of Ferndale" logo on it.  The seniors will still be able to meet at a church but will have to forgo the exercise room; sheriff deputies may patrol our streets instead of our own police (though many may be hired as deputies),  and suspects may be locked-up in Madison Heights rather than downtown Ferndale.

Unfortunately, we won't be able to vote for more fiscal prudence until November, six months after we're asked to increase taxes by a city council that regards itself as "investors."  Investors in totem poles, parking studies, city hall rebuilding studies , surveys, and redecorating.

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