Don’t Worry, Georgia Says Everything is Fine

To hear Georgia Lord tell it, one would think that everything is just fine when it comes to the city of Goodyear’s finances and the new city budget. InFocus Article0001  PC Post Article0001

Mayor Lord has recently written encouraging and upbeat op ed pieces about Goodyear’s finances and 2012-13 budget in local newspapers and magazines as well as the Goodyear InFocus magazine. Georgia seems to think that everything is great and looking up in Goodyear.  She boasts of a cut in Goodyear’s food sales tax from 2.25% to 2.00%, and she says that “saving you money” was the goal of refinancing some ball park debt “as a hedge against declining property values”. She goes on to say that changes have been made to bulk trash that “residents have told us they support”, and Georgia tells readers that city employees are getting only a 2.5% pay increase but that they will have to pay 6.4% more for their health benefits. Finally, Georgia says that “property taxes had to be adjusted (up)” but it will only cost 54 cents per month to residents.

Beware when politicians tell you everything is looking up and then speak about it only in percentages and slogan-like sound bites. What is really “up” in Goodyear is best established by examining verifiable facts that Georgia may have forgotten to point out.

  1. Goodyear’s operating departments’ expenses in the 2012-13 budget total over $77 million dollars.  In 2008, before the recession hit, the same departments spent under $70 million.  That is an over 10% increase in proposed spending through a recession.
  1. Goodyear had a General Fund balance of over $55 million dollars in 2008.  The new budget projects the GF balance to be just over $20 million dollars. That is nearly $35 million dollars less in the kitty than in 2008.  Where’d all that money go?
  1. In 2008, again prior to the recession, Goodyear sanitation, water, and waste water utilities revenues were a little over $20 million dollars. In the new budget they are projected to be nearly $30 million dollars or nearly 50% higher than only 4 years ago.
  1. Goodyear had to refinance their ball park debt because according to an October  2011 Goodyear finance department presentation, 5 years from now in 2017, Goodyear will have to increase its principle payments on the over $100 million in ball park debt. They were unable to forecast where those funds would otherwise come from. This is because the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority is expected to renege on its promise to pay off some of the ball park debt that Goodyear took on to build the stadium complex.  At the same meeting, a finance department representative informed city council that Goodyear has no bonding ability going forward “probably for the next five years”. That is because Goodyear would otherwise exceed its constitutional limits on debt.
  1. But just because Goodyear has borrowed so much money that they can’t by law borrow any more by issuing bonds, that has not stopped Goodyear city council from considering borrowing even more. In a June 18 council workshop, council supported borrowing $15 million dollars from banks in order to buy a building Goodyear currently leases from a local developer, expanding city office space, and adding a library.  And in order to borrow that money, they will have to exceed their own limit of 10% of General Fund payments for debt.
  1. City employees’ pay raises will cost residents over $1.1 million per year this year.
  1. City employees will pay on average about $75 per month more for health care benefits while taxpayers pick up the remaining $500,000 per year increase.
  1. The facts do not support Mayor Lord’s claim that property taxes “had to” go up in order to deal with the drop in property values.  In 2008, Goodyear’s primary property tax levy was budgeted at $4.17 million.  Last year it was up to $6.3 million. That is an over 50% increase in primary property taxes collected.
  1. The food tax reduction that Georgia touts will reduce city tax revenues by less than $400,000 per year in a budgeted annual sales tax collection of $30 million dollars (about 1%). These savings will be spread out not just to Goodyear residents, but to anyone who happens to purchase food within the city of Goodyear making the savings to residents even less. The 0.25% reduction in the food tax will save purchasers 25 cents for every $100 spent at the grocery store.  

The truth is that city of Goodyear city management and Goodyear elected officials won’t face reality, curtail spending, and operate the city for the benefit of the resident tax payers first. Instead, they please city employees who help keep them in office, satisfy public safety union PACs and local developers who contribute to their political campaigns, and push to build libraries that might be nice to have but for which there is really no money available unless of course they just keep on increasing residents’ taxes and utility bills.

But don’t worry, mayor Lord says everything is just fine.


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