Tuesday, 29 November 2011

How a City Sinks Itself into Debt

You tend to know when a town has cash sitting around and desperately wants to throw it away or toss it to some favorite friend of the city council.

Here in Virginia....down in Charlottesville....the city council realized the cash flow was strong enough to reward someone.

The city council passed this fancy deal....to bring more diversity to Chrlottesville.  The deal on the plate is simple.  The city agreed that there will be a Charlottesville Commission on Human Rights, Diversity and Race Relations.  The folks are already planning $300k to start this operation, and expecting the general yearly cost to be a minimum of $200k.  The numbers come from the town newspaper, The Daily Progress.

Now, a smart guy would sit there and ask a few questions.  How exactly does diversity cost $300k for a town of 43k folks?  Well....you start with a commission of folks who appointed (seven is always a nice uneven number, which is what they selected).  We might all admit that five folks would have been enough....or even three.  But seven folks get picked for the deal.  They are unpaid, but I'm guessing that all seven get airline tickets and hotel deals to attend national diversity conferences.....maybe in Orlando, or Hawaii....who knows?

Then you toss in a director who is hired to lead the city toward diversity (he makes $90k).  Then you toss in an investigator who is supposed act like an advocate on occasion....and he would make $60k a year.  Naturally, Wanda and Gus would require a secretary....who would be making $30k a year.  Added to the trio, you can anticipate laptops, paper, and a bucket of cash (my estimate, $8k a year) to help make this trio fit into the situation.

You have to assume that the city likely has around 400 folks who fall into the police, fire and services departments.  A full-time investigator?  What if you go an entire year without any complaints?  You just blew $60k.  What if there's not much for the secretary to do?  You blow another $30k.  I can only assume that the director will find enough meetings to keep himself/herself looking busy.....but frankly....is a full-time guy like this worth $90k?  And the conferences for the seven folks to attend?  You can figure $10k spent on their requirements as they run off to Seattle or New Orleans each year for booze and diversity chat.

This is generally how a town gets itself deeper into financial issues when you gaze ten to twenty years ahead.  They stand there and just want to admit they don't know how to cut city services and serve the fine people of the town.....by cutting manpower.  They are hoping you are naive enough...not to ask stupid questions about what city employees do.