by Max Brantley
I note another article this morning about Little Rock City Hall hand-wringing over income arriving at levels less than forecast and the need for budget cuts. Oh, no, this has nothing to do with selling the city's pending half-billion-dollar sales tax proposal, city officials insist.
It so happens I wrote on this subject this week, prompted by a typically impassioned alternative view from civic activist Jim Lynch, whose resume includes time at City Hall. He notes the city's healthy reserve fund. He notes that job openings are typical in any organization, even welcome to create budget wiggle room. He notes that revenues, if below forecast, are running ahead of revenues last year. (My print version of this column, inaccurately said the revenues were running ahead of forecast.)
Jim Lynch is no Tea Partyer. He thinks the city needs more money. But he thinks it needs less than the penny it's seeking. And he resents the way the city obfuscates and spins and pads tax proposals with things like inadequately explained and justified slush funds for economic development. He says opposition to the tax plan is being organized.
PS — Reviewing the link above for how the city wants to spend the money, I'm reminded again of how dishonest this proposal is. The "capital" side of the proposal contains a long list of things normally viewed as operating costs. We should, for example, have an ongoing street repair program. But the mayor packed this sort of thing, along with truly needed police structural costs, into the capital side to make it harder to beat to protect his handout to the chamber of commerce. B.J. Wyrick was right. The economic development giveaway should have been made a separate ballot issue, not be part of a Trojan horse.
UPDATE: Gerard here. Mayor Stodola takes issue with Lynch's numbers and says that revenues are in fact running below last year's numbers. He provided this rundown. Stodola says sales tax revenues, overall revenues and sales tax collections are all below last year's numbers (to the tune of $60,639, $232,645 and -1.10 percent, respectively). He also noted the city currently has 239 vacancies, in reference to Max's mention of staff shortages in his column.
Stodola also pointed out:
The timing of our 2011 budget review is exactly what we have been doing in past years. It has not been sped up for the purposes of the election... As for the restricted reserve for catastrophic events necessary to maintain our current bond rating, we are supposed to have 10%. Instead of $13 million, we only have $9 million. These monies cannot and should not be used for operational expenses. It is enough to barely cover 3 paychecks for personnel.