City needs to find ‘money-growing tree’ to fund its ‘spending spree’

To the editor:

As 2014 draws to a close, it’s time to take a look at how Crestwood’s elected officials treated the tax dollars entrusted to their care, and take a peek at what their plans are for 2015.

Over the last half of 2014, fiscal stewardship took a vacation. The city’s legal fees have skyrocketed, not because of extraordinary circumstances, but due to extremely poor choices which led to the expanded use of legal services.

As a result of this excessive dependence on the city’s legal representatives, the city had to ask for a transfer of $15,000 just to pay the legal fees for the remainder of the year. This would not be noteworthy except for the fact that the current city attorney’s hourly rate is $55 cheaper than that of the previous city attorney.

To illustrate this administrative dysfunction, consider the following: Our city administrator wasted $10,000 on an employee grievance, inviting the law firm’s participation where it had no place; $7,000 on a bridge contract with the firefighters’ union, the result of the city administrator’s inattention to deadlines; and $1,000 on an employee resignation and the ensuing task of filling the position.

Not to be outdone, Mayor Gregg Roby wasted $7,000 in legal fees on an illegitimate pursuit to remove a resident volunteer from a city commission and spent nearly $1,000 sending an alderman on an all-expenses-paid trip to Philadelphia to learn about beautification.

Judging by the budget, it appears our elected officials have deemed 2015 a good year to go on a spending spree, submitting a budget whose expenditures exceed revenues by $750,000. The city will spend $80,000 to $120,000 on a full-time planner, in addition to three part-time positions, creating long-term liabilities that will ensure a deficit balance in the general fund.

The parks and stormwater fund made its last repayment to the general fund in 2014; as of 2015 and beyond, the general fund can no longer count on this influx of money. Not surprisingly, the budget for legal expenses has been increased with the excuse that redevelopment “may” take place. Another standout is the $10,000 budgeted for Ward 2 Alderman Mary Stadter’s recently established Beautification Committee. With nebulous goals and half of its budget dedicated to travel expenses and non-value-added items, this line item exemplifies the complete disregard with which the city holds your hard-earned tax dollars.

With all of this reckless spending, the city should consider using some of the beautification budget to send a beautification delegation on a National Geographic-style expedition to locate the elusive money-growing tree, for there is no other way to support the fiscal irresponsibility that is the 2015 budget than to plant an orchard of those trees in Whitecliff Park.