Why my opponent is wrong about the city budget (which is in excellent condition)

Despite her criticisms and mockery of my public service, Heather Heiderich has so far indicated opposition to only 1 vote out of hundreds I’ve taken in nearly four years on the Fircrest City Council. And that was the $23.4 million budget for 2015, which the Council voted 5-1 to approve last December.

Heather keeps making variations of this false claim:

“…when Hunter claims he balanced the budget this year, keep in mind it was balanced in an unsustainable fashion utilizing a one-time revenue bonus from the Wainwright Intermediate School construction project on Alameda Ave. This is not sustainable, and leaves the problem to be tackled later in the next budget…”

She’s wrong. And here’s proof: That “next budget” – the proposed 2016 budget that we expect to adopt in early November – is already in the black. Without Wainwright project revenues.

In fact, some of our funds have such healthy reserves that I’ve voted with the other members of the Fircrest Investment Committee to invest some of the balances in municipal bonds that earn in the neighborhood of 1.4 percent interest. That doesn’t sound like much at first, but it’s nearly 10 times the 0.16 percent interest paid by the state-run Local Government Investment Pool. (By law, those are the only options for investing municipal funds.) Those investments are generating tens of thousands of dollars in interest, which goes right back into city programs and services.

Moreover, we used some of those one-time Wainwright permit revenues this year to replace a police car that was experiencing too many mechanical problems to justify spending more money on it. And we’ve got $3.5 million in what’s officially known as Cumulative Reserve but might be better known as the rainy day fund.

So it’s silly to claim that we adopted an unsustainable budget last year when it turns out we will have funds left over at the end of the year (even after buying that police car), and next year’s proposed budget is perfectly sound.

The truth is we are always conservative when estimating incoming revenues. No one I’ve asked can recall a time in recent years when we had to make mid-year cuts to the budget because revenues weren’t matching expenditures. That conservative approach is a key reason why Fircrest’s budget is in better shape than other municipal budgets in the area.

Heather’s false claims make me wonder if she’s even read our budget. When I first signed up to run for the Council four years ago, I attended several Council meetings and made an appointment with the city manager so I could come in and get a copy of the budget and other policies and learn more about the organization. We have yet to see Heather at City Hall since she filed for office in May.

Heather claims her experience of starting – and closing – two “successful” businesses makes her better qualified to manage the city’s finances. But she refuses to provide any relevant context, such as the size of payroll (especially non-family payroll), revenues, expenditures, capital planning, etc.

How can voters judge her qualifications to manage their money based on vague claims about the successful marijuana candy business she closed?

Your seven-member City Council has gone through the proposed $22.1 million 2016 budget page by page during five public meetings over the past month. (Note: it’s $1.3 million less than last year because the sewer projects are nearly complete.) This is my fourth budget cycle with the city. We scrutinize every department and we ask a lot of questions of staff to make sure that every request is justified.

We are on track to vote on the budget Nov. 10. Feel free to contact councilmembers and/or attend that meeting. It’s your money, and we’re working hard to stretch every dollar as far as it will go.

October 25 update: Heather keeps writing long posts that don’t actually say anything. Her response to this piece about the budget makes false threats that we’ll have to cut the budget because of unsustainable spending. She again fails to acknowledge that the 2016 budget is already balanced without Wainwright money, so obviously we didn’t overspend in 2015.

And regarding her criticism that $3.5 million in Cumulative Reserve isn’t enough: She still doesn’t understand our city budget. Those aren’t the only undesignated funds. I only used the very healthy Cumulative Reserve as an example.

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