City Council Member Rogers responds to Council Member Brown
Providing accurate information to Salida’s citizens is one of my most important City Council member responsibilities. Misleading information and exaggerations, intentionally or even accidentally stated or written, lead to distrust of ALL City Council members.
Playing the “he said, she said” game only increases the number of false statements whirling around our community. When one Council member publishes incorrect information it is assumed that ALL Council members agree with his/her statements. In no way am I insinuating that all City Council members must agree on every issue. Heavens! No! Each of us have our own perspective, an important component that we individually bring to every meeting. However it is critical that each Council member base his/her opinions on facts, not emotions or preconceived biases. We each have an obligation to provide “good” information to our citizens.
With these thoughts in mind, I have prepared this document for you, Salida’s citizens. The following provides clarification of several factual errors and misstatements including some published May 21st in Council Member Brown’s Guest Opinion.
Referring to 2014 "budgeted" dollars rather than "actual" costs exaggerated the dental/medical numbers by more than 10% ($627,800 vs. $570,121). A difference of over $50,000 in savings occurred because City staff found a lower cost plan and revamped employee benefits to contain future cost escalation.
The City's 2014 contribution to employee retirement was distorted when costs were overstated by over 7%. The Council member failed to consider the $61,640 paid for the Old Hire Police and Fire Pension Plans received by nine surviving former employees and their beneficiaries. The actual average retirement cost per participant was $3,350 rather than $4,533.
The original "2A" ordinance stated the funds "shall be used for funding construction, operation, maintenance, and repair of roads and other public infrastructure of the City" and that is how the funds were used. Granted, some people had in mind a more narrow definition. It's time to stop inferring "misappropriation" of funds, a very serious allegation and not true. Remember, NO property taxes have been collected by the City of Salida since 2009. It is estimated that nonresidents (those living outside city boundaries and tourists) contribute 50% or more of our sales tax revenue. Salida citizens likely “pay” at most half of our city employee salaries.
Salida City employee salaries should be compared to those with similar skills and responsibilities in other cities of similar size. Data provided by the Colorado Municipal League (CML) verifies that Salida’s city salaries are inferior in comparison. We are having difficulty finding qualified candidates willing to accept positions when they also consider Salida's high cost of living. Soon to retire baby boomers, some of our most knowledgeable and important employees, will create further challenges.
53% of those who cast votes in March, a total of 960 Salida citizens, voted for the Farney/Carlisle 2A Initiative. Using the 2010 census, adults ages 18 and older comprise a total of 4,299 Salida citizens. Only 22% of our voting age citizens supported the 2A Initiative.
Streets Improvement Bonds became due in 2011. That City Council approved the final payment of $456,315 as was its duty. This was an appropriate use of 2A funds and not an "early retirement of debt," as the Council member stated.
We have made great strides with street projects by increasing the percentage of Capital dollars used for current projects without going into debt. Repair of damaged sidewalks, curbs and gutters continues at a brisk pace.
Council members were being extra-conservative as they prepared the 2011 budget. The entire nation was still dealing with an economic downturn and nobody knew when it would cease. City staff and Council prepared two budgets (one including personnel layoffs) because of two statewide ballot questions that would have slashed our revenue.
It's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback. Serving as City Treasurer during the economic downturn, I observed the stressful pressures on City staff and Council members. They found ways to reduce total spending--both capital and operating. Council and City staff remain cautious in anticipating each new year’s revenue.
City government relies primarily on people rather than machinery or land. Salida needs people to do the work, providing ALL of our City services. City employees are paid with funds from the Operations budget even when working on Capital projects. Without adequate Operating funds, City services will likely be reduced or simply go away.
Thank you, Salida citizens, for the privilege of serving you.
Eileen Rogers, City Council Member, Ward II