Is Annapolis Bankrupt?
The answer of course is yes, believing the words of the Mayor. If, however, your are of the ‘actions speak louder than words’ persuasion, we’ve got money to burn.
Most city expenses are required, and somewhat rigid. Around 85% of the city budget goes to salaries and benefits, which are negotiated only periodically via a union contract. (Hooray unions.) The other 15% is more discretionary, and 4 recent actions regarding the city’s discretionary spending portray a care-free attitude when it comes to the taxpayers’ money.
1. Sailing Hall of Fame. A group of sailors, well funded and led by the owner of the Boatyard Bar and Grill, want to raze a historic building downtown and put up a Sailing Hall Of Fame. The city gave them a grant of $260,000, which is $260,000 more than the organizers said that they needed, and $10,000 more than the legally approved amount in the budget.
2. Money For The Homeless. Citing only the hardship of being homeless in the winter, Mayor Moyer proposed giving money from 5 parking meters taken in during the coldest 4 months of the year to the homeless, based on the recommendations of a “Housing and Human Welfare Committee”. No estimates were given as to how much money will be spent.
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3. Going Green. A distant incarnation of the plastic bag ban, O-27-07 is now more of an omnibus environmental bill. Its passage would direct the city to spend up to 10% more on products deemed to be environmentally friendly, and would also direct the city to buy from ‘reasonable’ local sources without any price consideration.
4. Free Bus Rides. The transportation department is not what you would call an efficient operation. From inside accounts, the director is on vacation a lot, and they consistently spend more money than they take in*. Yet, they have again decided to offer free bus rides for a day in memoriam of Martin Luther King.
(*Interpreting the budget for transportation is tricky. If you scroll down to the transportation fund summary, you will see that it requires a $1.8 million ‘subsidy’ just to break even.)
For each of these actions, you could argue that the policy is appropriate (some arguments are better than others). My point is, they are not the actions of a financially weak city. Free bus rides and sailing halls of fame are not priorities when we have underfunded police. Any money problem in Annapolis is a spending problem.