Roby turns Crestwood’s 2016 budget into ‘piece of campaign literature’

To the editor:

In an effort to use the deficit projected in Crestwood’s 2016 budget as justification for a property-tax increase, Mayor Gregg Roby turned what should have been an administrative financial document into a piece of campaign literature.

Residents who are aware of the ease with which budget numbers can be manipulated knew to scrutinize the proposed budget after hearing the mayor’s claims that the city had a “revenue problem.”

Moreover, those familiar with the city’s Charter understood that the mayor crossed a well-defined boundary by interfering in the budget-creation process, a responsibility the Charter specifically assigns to the city administrator.

Mayor Roby admitted that before former City Administrator Mark Sime began work on the 2016 budget, he requested that Mr. Sime ask every department head to list every need they had, and also asked him not to cut those items.

Thanks to Mayor Roby’s interference at this step of the process, the resulting budget’s expenditures far exceeded its revenues; what other outcome could be expected when the city administrator is given instructions to accept a budget front loaded with every conceivable expense?

Take the mayor’s own accounts as an example: Proposed expenditures for 2016 increased by 113 percent over 2014.

Contributing to this disproportionate growth in expenses was the mayor’s decision to take his salary, and to increase proposed expenses in public relations and promotions.

Multiply this lack of fiscal discipline over many city accounts, and the result could not have been better engineered to show revenues that did not keep up with expenses, a “problem” that could only be “solved” by a tax increase.

The consequences of Mayor Roby’s executive overreach were on full display during the Nov. 24 discussion of the city’s 2016 budget.

Rather than review a budget that had already been vetted by a city administrator who had the daily working knowledge of where to best make cuts at the line-item level, the time-consuming and often confusing job of making those cuts was left to the aldermen.

Because the mayor inserted himself in the budget process at a point where the Charter forbids him from doing so, the delicate balance of power in the city was disrupted. The Charter provides a remedy to restore this balance, but it will require that aldermen find the will to place a much-needed check on the mayor.