By Bill Oakey – June 10, 2014
Just as we begin to catch our breath from one wasteful move by the City Council, here comes another one! Item #63 on this Thursday’s agenda would give away $2.5 million of your money and mine in fee waivers to the new Seton Teaching Hospital. This is appalling when you consider that we just got stock with an unprecedented property tax increase from Central Health that was supposed to cover the new U.T. medical school and this teaching hospital.
But here’s the most outrageous part of the deal on this new fee waiver. $1.4 million of it would take revenue away from the Water Utility. (To see the breakdown of the entire $2.5 million in fee waivers, go to the City Council agenda, click on Item #63, and then click on the fiscal note).
This financial hit to the Water Utility comes just after the new Fitch Bond Rating Service report that reduced the rating outlook for some of our Water Utility bonds from stable to negative. And it comes right on top of the news that we could face a 30% base rate increase in water rates under the new budget…PLUS a new drought fee!
A special Joint Committee on Water Utility Finance has been pouring over the books for several weeks, trying to find cost savings to help reduce the upcoming rate increase. And now we are faced with this bone-headed fee waiver. I can just hear somebody from the City saying, “Oh, but the $1.4 million in fees from Seton was not anticipated in the budget, so the waiver will have a neutral impact.” I don’t know if it was in the budget or not, but we have heard statements along those lines before. It’s only money after all, so what does it matter?
The bottom line from this City Council is becoming very clear. They don’t understand the frustration of the taxpayers. We know for certain that Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Mayor Pro-Tem Sheryl Cole are in favor of this latest fee waiver because they are both co-sponsors of the item on Thursday. In fact, Leffingwell told the Statesman that the City has a “moral obligation” to do the fee waiver.
But where is the “moral obligation” to the taxpayers and ratepayers???
This week it’s a total of $2.5 million in fee giveaways, plus $30 to $40 million in wasteful spending by Austin Energy to build a new building, when they could buy a bigger space for less than half the price. How much more in bad funding decisions will we see next week? And the week after that?
Our only chance is to let our voices be heard, loud and clear!
Send an email to all the City Council members using this link.