Friday, March 14, 2008

Recommended Reading: Pension Attention by Bob Mace

Bob Mace's column in this week's Community Free Press:
Pension Attention - by Bob Mace

Technically, it’s a scratched record, not a broken one that repeats over and over. So call me scratched, but as predicted months ago, City Council seeks a tax increase to fund the police and fire pensions they approved and then, for years, ignored. Do we need to increase taxes? Below are findings from the state auditor’s summary. This leads one to the conclusion that the money has been squandered. Read this before going to the polls and voting “No” on the tax increase issue.

“After more than three years and contracting with two developers, the Heer’s Tower project is still in the initial phases. During this time the city pledged public funds to secure private financing for a developer to purchase the Heer’s Tower, paid $693,000 to the developer ... subsequently paid $3.3 million to foreclose on the property, and then sold the Heer’s Tower for $3 million to a second developer.

Additionally, the city’s agreement with the second developer contains unclear terms regarding the city’s hotel/motel room tax revenue. “The city is also constructing two parking garages in the downtown area near the Heer’s Tower and College Station developments costing $17 million and anticipates funding the debt service payments through increased sales tax revenue generated by new downtown commercial developments. However, the terms in the city’s agreement for the College Station development do not appear to adequately protect the city’s financial investment in the project.

“The city has spent over $3 million to purchase a building, furniture, and equipment for a police and fire training facility, but after more than three years the building sits vacant without renovations and approximately $300,000 in furniture and equipment is still stored in the original packaging. Additionally, warranties on some of the unused equipment have expired.Acquiring equipment when it is not immediately needed is a waste of public funds.

“Over $8 million in city funds have been used to subsidize the Jordan Valley Ice Park and Car Park since these two facilities opened. The city’s feasibility study for the Ice Park indicated the park should have been self supporting in the first year of operation; however, income from hockey activities have not developed as projected.”

Here are a couple of observations from “The Edge.” The city, via the airport board, is apparently planning on donating the current terminal rather than selling it. Redesigning the square is, at best, a third-tier priority. The park board has developed a doggie park, a facility for citizens who own horses, and a YMCA-style Chesterfield Family Center and Aquatic Center.

Finally, Jordan Valley Ice Park. Does anybody else find it ironic that while the city was sheeted with a half-inch of ice, television ads were running for some fights being held in the ice arena —sans the ice? Hey, the ice park was the only place in the whole city that was defrosted! Lavish projects and programs, most notably Vision 20/20,led our city into spending money already pledged to the pension funds.

It doesn’t matter if the pensions were too large or not, the Council approved them and then ignored the liability. If Carlson and the Council can’t find a way to reconcile the shortfall other than threatening cuts in our police and fire protection or increasing our taxes, please have them call me or any other marginally intelligent adult. We need to borrow the funds to comply with state law until the big sale. Call Billy Long! He can easily oversee an auction extravaganza to sell truly unnecessary municipal property and raise the money needed for the pension fund.

E-mail Bob Mace at

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