Clearing the Air on Miss-Information related to Salida City Government

In an attempt to "clear the air" related to numerous miss-statements published in the Mountain Mail opinion pages and miss-information circulating around our community, I have written a response. Providing accurate information is always my goal. Note that I am speaking for myself only.

With as much self-restraint as I could muster, I have attempted to carefully select each word so that I minimize my own biases. I am very aware that avoiding ALL bias is simply impossible; I have done the best I can. In an attempt to provide a bit of levity as you read, I decided to use a question/answer format that sits comfortably with this retired educator! A mathematics teacher rarely uses the True/False format for evaluation purposes but I find it appropriate for this setting. You are not taking a test so there is no perfect score!

TRUE/FALSE STATEMENTS related to Salida City Government (1) The 2008 1% sales tax increase was to be used exclusively for repair and maintenance of streets.

FALSE: The 1% sales tax increase (2A) was passed to eliminate the City's Property Tax and to fund construction, operation, maintenance and repair of roads and other public infrastructure. There is no other source of funds to replace those property taxes.

(2) The possible increase of $521,000 in capital spending included in the Carlisle/ Farney 2A initiative can come from anywhere in the city budget.

FALSE: $521,000 will need to come from operations because it cannot come from capital funds.

(3) If the Carlisle/Farney 2A initiative passes, City Council can take the $521,000 from reserves each year.

TRUE/FALSE: Some minimum amount of reserves is required by statute and by bank loan securities leaving $1,867,680 available as of December 31, 2014. Where will that half million come from when there are no available reserves left in the fund?

(4) City Council can spend all unrestricted reserves however and whenever it wishes. (Restricted reserves include Capital, Employee medical plans, Drug Enforcement, Contingencies--i.e. TABOR, Open Space/Trails)

TRUE: Legally City Council can spend every dime. Like a family budget, it is not good fiscal policy for the City Council to cover operating expenses out of savings (i.e. reserves) except in an emergency.

(5) City Council can cancel current capital projects and reallocate funds to operations. FALSE: That is illegal. Placing restricted funds for capital projects into reserves DOES NOT transfer the funds into unrestricted money. Restricted funds are transferred into separate accounts when they are received. They remain in restricted accounts until

they are spent and cannot be transferred to operations.

(6) Our city is short staffed.

TRUE: Three departments need additional personnel: Public Works, Police and Fire. Public Works currently has the greatest need. Whenever any emergency occurs, Public Works employees are pulled off one project to aid in another.

(7) Our city's 3% sales tax is the single most important component of revenue for our community.

TRUE: Our 3% city sales tax makes up 53% of our total revenue in the general fund. Excluding grants and lodging, it would be 60%.

(8) City Council can use other tax sources (lodging occupation, franchise, cigarette, highway user, motor vehicle registrations, county road & bridge, and county sales taxes) to replace the $521,000 in the budget.

TRUE: City Council would need to determine which city services, currently funded by those taxes, would be reduced or eliminated.

(9) Salida spends five (5) times what other Colorado communities spend for capital improvements.

FALSE: Currently Salida spends 1.7 to 2.3 times. For comparison, the Carlisle/Farney 2A initiative would push that amount to 2.2 to 3 times what other communities spend annually.

(10) Previous City Councils could have revised the three (3) sales tax ordinances years ago to create a single document that is easier to implement and understand. TRUE: Out of respect for the voters, previous staff and councils have found ways to cope with the difficult language of those three ordinances passed in 1984, 1990 and 2008. Indeed each contained different language and intended to achieve a variety of

goals. Additional restrictions are included in the Carlisle/Farney 2A initiative.

(11) City Council decided to create their initiative to compete with the Carlisle/Farney 2A initiative.

FALSE: City Council members and staff determined that this was a good time to "fix" the problems created by the three different tax ordinances having become cumulative. The City Council initiative was written to combine the three tax ordinances into a simpler document. Since I joined the council as treasurer in 2009, I have heard council members and city staff discussing the importance of creating a simpler city sales tax document. The current council's decision provides a choice for the voters.

(12) Citizens believe that the city staff and City Council have visibility and trust issues.

TRUE/FALSE: It depends on who is talking. Every annual independent audit has been completed with shining colors. New accounting systems are allowing more complete and detailed information. The "Financial Document" page on the City of Salida website provides a great deal of details readily available to the public.

(13) The number (421) of citizens who signed the Carlisle/Farney 2A petition represent a significant number of Salida voters.

TRUE/FALSE: Here are the statistics: 421 signatures; of those, 387 were valid signatures; from a total of 4224 registered voters. You decide (10% or 9% of total). This number of valid signatures is a snapshot of Salida's voters. Whether or not you signed the petition, you are free to vote for which ever initiative you wish.

(14) City Council members and staff have stated that Fire personnel and Police officers will be laid off if the Carlisle/Farney 2A tax initiative is passed.

FALSE: That rumor was stated publicly and printed in the opinion page of the February 20th Mountain Mail.

And, now I will stop providing information related to some of the controversial statements I have recently heard. I hope you find the explanations helpful as you contemplate your ballot choices.

Finally, I want to make a plea for decency. It is time to put a stop to all attempts at the game of "gotcha." From time to time every one of us will say something that was not meant to be said. Rather than beat each other up because of our mistakes, let's agree to treat each other as we wish to be treated.

Common courtesy and appropriate conduct must be an expectation of all of us. Disagreements are going to happen but personal attacks must end -- NOW. I am reminded of a saying or perhaps a prayer from my childhood -- "Let it begin with me."

Eileen Rogers Salida City Council, Ward 2 March 5, 2015

Comments

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  • Thank you Eileen for this information

  • THANK YOU for taking the time - and restraint - to write this very helpful letter!

    Lawton

  • "misinformation" is false or inaccurate information. "Miss Information" is perhaps a beauty queen from the Silicon Valley

  • You had me until No. 10 and beyond.

  • Eileen - thanks so much for this clear straightforward info!

  • edited March 2015

    A few facts on the city's financial reporting and council threatening layoffs of police / firemen:

    12) [Visibility and trust issues] .. True /False

    a) Each year, the city makes a list of planned general fund capital expenditures, including streets. Since 2009, there has never been a public accounting afterward to show what capital expenditures were made, what projects were completed, and how much they cost.

    b) Even in the midst of intense scrutiny, the City posts erroneous and misleading documents. See for instance the Actual Capital Spending numbers in these two reports, both of which have been posted in the last month and one-half.

    One reasonably fears that the "reports" contemplated by Baker-Schmidt City Initiative 2015-02 will be of similar quality and reliability.

    Supporters of the administration, including one gentleman who said at Council one night, "[I don't see the need for audits, anyway]," will probably find "a" and "b" above to be "OK." I believe that neither the Governmental Accounting Standards Board nor most accountants would agree.

    c) The audits are cursory and contain many disclaimers. Consider this language from .pdf pages 17 - 18 of the 2013 audit:

    "[The City, referred to in audit as "Management"] is responsible for the preparation and fair presentation of these financial statements in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America; this includes the design, implementation, and maintenance of internal control relevant to the preparation and fair presentation of financial statements that are free from material misstatement, whether due to fraud or error...

    [T]he auditor considers internal control relevant to the entity’s preparation and fair presentation of the financial statements in order to design audit procedures that are appropriate in the circumstances, but not for the purpose of expressing an opinion on the effectiveness of the entity’s internal control. Accordingly, we express no such opinion....

    Accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America require that the management’s discussion and analysis on pages I-XII and the budgetary comparison information on pages 30-33 be presented to supplement the basic financial statements.... We do not express an opinion or provide any assurance on the information because the limited procedures do not provide us with sufficient evidence to express an opinion or provide any assurance."

    "14) City Council members and staff have stated that Fire personnel and Police officers will be laid off if the Carlisle/Farney 2A tax initiative is passed." ... FALSE

    Councilman Yerkey said police and or fire would need to be cut, at a few separate times during the November 17, 2014 work session, between 10:20 and 17:00 minutes on the video tape, debating with another member of council.

    i.e. at 16:58, Yerkey saying: “Well, you heard me. ‘Chief Clark, keep those salaries where we’re going to put them December 6. Keep them there, but you’re going to have to cut back some people.'"

    November 17 work session:

    Thanks for reading.

    Jeff

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