Roby needs to understand taxpayers not Santa Claus, Schlink says

To the editor:

The holiday season always takes me back to my childhood, when I opened the oversized Sears catalog and scoured the pages, seeking items to place on my equally oversized Christmas list.

Santa Claus always took care of me, but he never gave me everything on my Christmas list.

Crestwood Mayor Gregg Roby took a similar approach to the city’s 2016 budget. He asked the department heads to put everything they wanted on their list. But unlike my Christmas-day experiences, where the real “Santas” gave me only what they could afford, the city wish lists were incorporated into the budget.

The holiday surprise for Crestwood taxpayers was a budget that initially had over $1 million more in estimated expenses than projected revenues for 2016.

When I was mayor, the city administrator created a list to identify all the capital needs of the city. Each item was well-documented in the budget, so that anyone reviewing the projected expenses knew which capital items were priorities.

Yes, items were deferred to future years, but that stems from the fact that any entity operating within yearly revenue constraints and faced with capital improvement projects cannot make all of those improvements in one year. Like most households, Crestwood does not have an unlimited supply of income to address all needs all at once.

With proper financial planning and budgeting, those needs can be staggered and addressed in order of priority. This is why the city’s Charter requires the city administrator to make five-year personnel and capital improvement budgets — not so that every expense listed over the five-year time period can be paid in year one, but so that each year’s budget can accommodate expenses associated with the planned expenses for that year.

Mayor Roby believes he inherited a budget problem; there was no budget problem when I left office.

I have observed Mayor Roby for over 10 years while he has been involved in Crestwood politics. Despite the fact that the past tax increases he supported have failed miserably, he is at work again promoting another tax increase.

The approach is a warmed-over version of former Mayor Roy Robinson’s tactics: Cherry-pick figures to fabricate a financial crisis at City Hall, introduce the idea that services will be greatly reduced or cut altogether, tell taxpayers the city is already cut to the bone, then propose a tax increase as a solution to the “crisis.”

It’s time Mayor Roby understood that taxpayers are not Santa Claus, and that wish lists have no place in a city budget.