We are probably opening the proverbial Pandora’s box, but the GUARDIAN will offer reasonable space to candidates for local offices between now and election day. The comments will be posted as they come in with minimal editing. We are imposing a “reasonable length” guideline.
By Sara Baker,
Dist. 5 ACHD Candidate
Citizens should be disheartened that the ACHD budget process was not transparent. It is impossible to make the transition from the FY 2008 actual numbers to the proposed numbers presented for the FY2009 budget and be able to compare the two. As Abraham Lincoln said, “that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.” Quite frankly, if the people cannot read and follow government documents easily, then Lincoln’s statement is meaningless and we are no longer government of, by or for the people.
But there are some conclusions one can make nonetheless.
First, while it is laudable that ACHD Commissioners are allowing positions to go unfilled and they plan to add no new positions in this economic downturn, the cost for labor is still very high. If ACHD’s proposed revenues are down 5%, it would seem prudent to reduce this portion of the budget by a corresponding 5%, at the very least. Personnel is becoming an increasing share of the budget going from 21.1% of expenses in 2007 to 24.4% two short years later. While the cost of labor in the 2009 budget is down .9%, the labor budget will increase a whopping 13.5% over the actual costs of labor just 2 years ago.
ACHD’s CIP budget is down and yet they are devoting over 11% of that to legal fees associated with the Maple Grove Extension. Would it not make more fiscal sense for ACHD to try to come to an amicable settlement with Settler’s Canal? At the end of this project ACHD will have spent around $8 million to build the road and almost half again that amount to sue another government agency using taxpayer dollars for both sides of the litigation.
While it is true that the costs of materials, such as liquid tar, is climbing, it makes no sense to then cut the budget for materials which ACHD is proposing to do by 9%. If the cost of materials is rising and the budget is shrinking, the maintenance of the taxpayers’ assets will suffer. Again, if the personnel costs are cut, particularly in administration, AHCD could fund more maintenance. If ACHD doesn’t deal with maintenance in a timely manner, they are just setting up major costs for we the taxpayers down the road.
Operational overhead is increasing by 6%. While it makes sense to anticipate higher utility costs, agency support (whatever this is) is proposed to increase over 31% from two years ago and advertising is proposed to go up 37%. It is hard to believe that the costs for these items have escalated this much. It is more likely they are being overestimated.
An examination of the annual reports shows that ACHD’s cost per lane mile has increased 74.4% over the10 years from 1997 to 2007. While this might seem reasonable, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has increased 19.97% during that same period. ACHD’s cost per lane mile has thus exceeded the CPI four fold. This cost per lane mile does not include any of the capital projects, which might reflect increases in steel, concrete, etc.
ACHD’s budget should be much more conservative particularly since the average resident of Ada County has to tighten their spending. Every tax dollar entrusted to ACHD must be spent carefully and with a clear recognition that it is not ACHD’s dollar – it is the taxpayer’s. It’s unfortunate that ACHD did not keep that in mind while putting the FY2009 budget together.
For more information see SaraBakerforACHD.com or call Sara at 377-2416.
To see video of the budget meeting where Baker testified see video of this ACHD meeting
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