Cutting your nose to spite your face?

Calls,and kudos, for cutting the budget annoy the heck out of me. Rarely do government expenditures fall. Instead, a politically-well-calculated shift occurs – from salaries, wages, and benefits to grandiose plans and projects. The winners: the consultants, developers, and politicians who get to parse the wealth around. The losers: the government employess, the services they provide, and the taxpayers dependent on them.

Now, Missoula Mayor John Engen is getting in on the game. His State of the City address (Feb.2nd) has every department cutting, saving and reorganizing in order to match the declining revenues of city government. This is as a result of him asking for 6.5% reductions in budgets. But, 75% of the city budget is in salaries. So, that means you either fire staff or delay cost-of-living adjustments and watch some good people leave the area for better paying jobs. Either way, its bad.

How about the Mayor stop the hemorrhaging of money that is going into various civic projects? I know the out-of-town consultants and various planners will scream, but these are tough times and somethings got to give.

Let’s put some things on the chopping block:

A new Missoula County Fairgrounds.

We’ve spent over $60,000 on consultants (Crandall Arambula) to be told it will probably cost around $19 million.

The Front Street Parking Structure.

Kimley-Horn & Associates were the consultants here, and it looks like it will cost $8.2 million. I can’t seem to get a straight answer from the Missoula Parking Commission, the Missoula Downtown Association, or the city on who is going to pay the costs, but I’ll bet the taxpayers won’t be completely off the hook. After all, Crandall Arumbula got paid nearly half a million via a “public-private partnership” for the Downtown Master Plan that prescribes provision of more parking. I’m guessing that means the city is going to borrow millions to subsidize the downtown merchants.

The Missoula Events Center.

Don’t get me started on the problems with this one. jhwygirl does a nice job over here. Suffice to say that Hunden Strategic Partners got paid $50,000 for the first phase of their feasibility assessment. They’re asking for a similar amount for the second phase, when they’ll tell us how much it is going to cost and who should pay for it.

Oh and by the way, have you ever looked at who is behind the MEC? Yep, many of the same people behind the ball park, which took at least $2 million in city funding and still isn’t finished. How’s that working out for ya?

So, instead of cutting firefighters, parks & recreation, and police officers, Mr. Mayor, you should take a closer look at some the grandiose projects that all these consultants say is necessary for you to spend money researching and building. Heck, you could also borrow back the nearly $4 million that the Missoula Parking Commission has in the bank.

8 Responses

  1. […] A new fair and new parking garage downtown are both on that list. […]

  2. I could be wrong, but isn’t the fairgrounds a county thing?

  3. yes, the fair is a county thing. putting it on the city’s chopping block wont accomplish much

    • Perhaps we could put the county on the chopping block? Just kidding. I know we all enjoy the duplication of government oversight within the city limits.

  4. The portion of the Downtown Master Plan that has to do with assessing parking (and it is a lot more than simply building a parking structure) was paid for by the Missoula Parking Commission. MPC’s funding comes from three sources: meters, leasing parking spaces and fines. MPC gets NO TAX DOLLARS. Read that again.

    Due to the way Downtown was originally laid out (before the advent of the automobile) and the way it was developed, the City long ago determined that parking Downtown would be provided differently than the rest of Missoula. Parking spaces, and parking administration, would be done centrally by an entity NOT supported by tax revenue. The Missoula Parking Commission is a government non-profit business. It has to be run like a business and it has to develop financial reserves in order to fund capital improvements like parking garages. Even though it is a component part of the City budget, its money is not derived from property tax.

    Whether parking garages should be built is something that rightly should be a subject for public discussion, but HOW it should be paid for was established long ago.[cross-posted at Red Tape.]

    • I’m very glad to hear that MPC gets NO TAX DOLLARS. Perhaps it will stay that way – buying the land for the parking garage with no special deals, no private-public partnerships, no tax increment funding? I doubt it.

      But, let’s be clear. All that MPC funding comes from THE PUBLIC, either individuals or businesses. That we are charged by a government agency to use public resources is a tax by many a definition. Either that, or it is a giveaway to special interests, a form of privatization. Ask yourself whether the city could take back the parking spaces and use them for open space. Again, I doubt it.

  5. Maybe I missed it but what happened to the 600 or 700 grand the city got last spring for weatherization? Would someone please follow that money that was supposed to create immediate , “shovel ready” jobs? Has the city burned through any of it on administration and overhead, managing a grant that still hasn’t gotten to the workers? How many actual jobs did that create in Missoula and when did that happen? How much money is left and who gets it?

  6. I’m all for putting the county on the chopping block. At least all three of those commissioners. Their a waste of office space and the nearly $70,000/yr (maybe it’s more? or slightly less) salary that they draw. They’re so coffee-clatchy up there, they seem to forget that they’re elected and there is a public out there that they have to deal with.

    I’m serious. The one seat that is up now, I will vote for ANYONE but the incumbent. ANYONE.

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