By Randy Kugler
Why is the $92,600 taken from the Water Fund to pay City Hall salaries something citizens should even be concerned about? Every dollar that the City can avoid paying the salaries of the City Manager and Assistant City Manager from the General Fund is another dollar that they can transfer to the City Hall Expansion Fund to pay off the loan on the Underhill property purchase and City Hall construction project.
In the current Budget in addition to transferring $210,000 from the General Fund into the City Hall Expansion Fund, the City transferred an additional $113,675 directly from the Water Fund into the City Hall Expansion Fund. In short, the Water Fund this year directly and indirectly is contributing $206,275 towards this project. This translates to approximately 21.5% of city water customer’s monthly water service payments funding this project.
Some Water Fund revenue is certainly needed in the new building for staffing that is related to the water utility. The utility clerk needs a work location to do billing. The architect recommended staffing space needs for this position including shared work space with other City Hall administration staff and storage for water billing records would come to about 120 sq. ft for this position that is funded at 60% from the Water Fund. 120 sq. ft. at $500 sq. ft. comes to $60,000. Office space for the Public Works Director is also included in the new building. The Public Works Director now has an office in the existing Public Works building and the Water Treatment Plant. How many offices does a working Public Works Director who spends a good portion of each work day in the field need in Manzanita? The point is that the flow of money from the Water Fund for this project bears no relation to what can legitimately be justified for Water Fund staff support positions.
In this year’s Budget, the City Manager warned “the inability in the last years to provide sufficient revenues to finance needed system improvements and major maintenance activities suggest that a water rate increase needs to be considered in the next fiscal year”. Connect the dots. Take 21.5% of the revenue that Manzanita citizens are paying for water service that they believe is going to operate and maintain their water system and divert it to building a new City Hall and paying manager’s salaries for activities that they are not performing and don’t be surprised that a water rate increase is just around the corner.
Also, don’t be surprised to see anything but token adjustments resulting from the study that the Council announced for next year’s Budget on Water Fund payments for the City Manager and Assistant City Manager. Any meaningful reductions create problems for the City’s ability to make their loan payments on the Underhill property and promise that the City Hall Expansion Fund will be a source of funding to pay down the property tax Bond.
The City wants to convince you that by voting for this Bond measure the average property owner will only have to pay $16.80 per month for up to 31 years. You at least get the opportunity to vote on this tax. If you are paying the minimum monthly water bill, add another $8.50 per month for your hidden water tax to your property tax bill to determine what this project is really costing you.
It’s bad enough that the City can not offer any commons sense reasoning to justify these payments to the City Manager and Assistant City Manager from the Water Fund. Combine this lack of accountability with the fact that there was no opportunity for you to vote on this water tax that you have been paying to build your City Hall and ask yourself how confident are you in the City’s handling of your money?