The Beauty is in the Balance—Snellville’s 2013 Budget
Last Friday night, the majority of Council approved a budget that demonstrates the type of financial responsibility that is rarely found in government. It has always been my philosophy that government should be run like a business and that the taxpayers are both customers and shareholders. This budget is consistent with that philosophy; it will deliver excellent value to our “customers”, and provide maximum return on investment to our “shareholders”. During the 2013 fiscal year (which began July 1st) Snellville citizens will see a reduction in taxes, and an improvement in services.
One of the reasons this budget has such an attractive tax component is that Snellville’s tax digest (the overall value of real estate within the city limits) has not had the predicted drop in value. While many other cities in Gwinnett County saw a 7-8% drop in digest values, Snellville’s tax digest dropped only 6/10s of one percent. (That’s clearly the result of the positive changes that have occurred within the city during the past two years.)
But this being Snellville, the budget was predictably a source of controversy and a platform for political posturing. After all the time we spent trying to reach a consensus, I found it very disappointing that issues which had been resolved, were positioned front and center in an apparent attempt to discredit a budget that was developed specifically to minimize the financial burden on taxpayers.
In essence, we have become involved in a semantics tango that has been escalated into a war dance by Council members of opposing opinions, and by staff members who chose to make ill-advised and defamatory comments. One of the dances swirls around controversy regarding a $16,900 expense to repair a damaged pavilion in Briscoe Park. The damage occurred, and the insurance company’s +/-$16,000 payment for repairs was received in a previous fiscal year.
Those repairs will be made during the 2013 fiscal year, (the reasons for such a lengthy delay are another story for another time) so costs must either be incorporated in the budget, or authorized through a subsequent budget amendment. Any expenditure incorporated in a budget must be offset by an equal amount of revenue, which is primarily derived from property taxes. If pavilion repair costs are simply included as an expense, those costs will be paid out of tax revenues. That’s not fair to the taxpayers because the city has already collected the insurance company’s payment.
The fiscally responsible approach is to transfer the money from the city’s reserve account prior to, or at the same time the expenditure is added. By so doing, the expense is tax revenue neutral. This is the approach approved by the majority of Council, (both with the pavilion repairs and with LCI project cost overruns) but it is up to city accounting staff to implement it in a manner that conforms with approved governmental and accounting practices. (Ironically, the City of Suwanee, faced with virtually the same circumstances, took the same approach as the one approved by the majority of Snellville’s council.)
I can only speculate as to the reason a member of staff has publicly stated that the approved budget contains “material misrepresentations”. If in fact any such misrepresentations exist, they would be a consequence of staff not properly executing its role in budget preparation.
So while the semantics tango/war dance continues, Snellville taxpayers will be enjoying a beautiful budget that enables the city to deliver one of the highest levels of service in Gwinnett County while paying lower taxes than they did last year. That’s enough to make you kick up your heels and dance.
Just like they’re doing in Suwanee.
Much Ado About Nothing- Snellville‘s “Proposed” Gun Ban
The subject of gun control always incites lively discussions and Ed Stone’s Examiner article, “Snellville Considers Gun Ban” (http://www.examiner.com/article/snellville-considers-gun-ban) is no exception. However, aside from philosophical differences, there’s no real basis for that discussion. “Snellville”, (which I assume to mean the City Council) is NOT considering a gun ban in any shape or form. Aside from the fact that enacting such a ban would be a violation of state law, it would never receive the votes necessary for passage; a sufficient number of Council members believe in the sanctity of the U.S. Constitution.
As a member of that Council, I was not aware of any discussion about guns until I received the agenda for the June 11th meeting. Under the work session portion of that agenda, item “e” was listed as “Firearms in city Parks [Kautz]”. Considering the recent incident in Sugar Hill, and the obvious widespread confusion about firearms laws, my expectation was that we would be discussing the city’s responsibility to honor Constitutional rights and the need to ensure that both citizens and city staff understand state firearms laws. I was more than surprised when the mayor, herself an attorney, referred the matter to our City Attorney for review prior to pursuing the issue. Such a referral serves no useful purpose as state law is quite clear- it is illegal for municipalities to enact firearms ordinances that preempt state law.
There was in fact, no consideration of a gun ban of any type, only a unilateral request by the mayor to pursue the issue. I can’t speak for other Council members regarding this issue, but there is absolutely no question that Bobby Howard and Diane Krause, and Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts are as determined as I am to protect and defend our Constitutional rights, and to ensure that all proposed city ordinances do not violate state law.
The article above also appears on examiner.com)
And Still More Adventures in City Attorney Land
In spite of rumors to the contrary, there are no plans to install a revolving door at Snellville City Hall. However, it has been reported that the revolving doors at area restaurants are now being referred to as “Attorney Doors”. Continue Reading
More Adventures in City Attorney Land
If you read “Adventures in City Attorney Land”, parts 1 and Deux, you’re probably wondering why you haven’t heard about the final resolution to Snellville’s “Not So Excellent Adventure”. Read more
Introducing– The SWILs
At the April 9th Council meeting, I introduced a new word that will help people understand the source of some of the more sleazy aspects of Snellville politics. That word is SWIL, which is an acronym for Read more
A Retreat, A Boot & A Wart
Last week was a busy one for members of the Snellville City Council. On Saturday, (3/24) we held our retreat at the Evergreen Center in Stone Mountain and discussed a number of subjects related to the Council and the city. Moderator Murray Weed of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government did an excellent job leading the discussions and providing insight. Read more
For Race Baiters, Saving Lives Just Doesn’t Pay
Tragic. There is truly no other word for it. Yet a mélange of other words has pre-empted “tragic” in commentary about the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Continue Reading
I am so pleasantly surprised that the Budget has passed with such ingenuity and transparency, and that the funds recovered from Gwinnett County for the Duplication of Services paid by Snellville Residents is spent “OUTSIDE” of the budget, where it does some real good without the back and forth infighting for the funds that really weren’t Snellvilles, but the Taxpayers. I knew that to try to return it to the Taxpayers would have been futile, and nearly impossible, so thanks to the Members of Council who voted for the New Budget, we get a tax break and that’s as close to getting our overpayment back as anyone could hope for. GREAT JOB YOU FOUR!!!!!!!!
Thank you for the kind words Mr. Nuspliger. We worked extremely hard to develop a budget that would provide for the highest level of service at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers. I was extremely disappointed that a bit of controversy resulted from some people not understanding this budget and what we were trying to accomplish with it. However, it appears that the required understanding has been achieved and we will be able to move forward with issues resolved. Also keep in mind that in addition to the 14% savings in city taxes that this budget provides, you should see a reduction in county taxes as a result of the resolution of the Service Delivery Strategy lawsuit with Gwinnett County.