By now it has become apparent that Measure 25-214 has only one true purpose: to create a slush fund for the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission (APRC). If passed, it will enable them to fund large, expensive capital improvement projects that would never be approved by the taxpayers if placed before them for approval.
The arguments that the proponents of the measure have utilized do not stand up to scrutiny.
First, it was “we love the parks” and “parks build community”. Those are true statements, and agreed to by all, but absolutely irrelevant to the issue at hand. But when the opponents began to explain the actual effects of the proposed changes, the proponents scrambled to come up with alternate arguments.
Unfortunately, they actively misrepresented the present and future effects this measure would have.
We have explained in great detail exactly how and why all of their arguments are misleading.
You can read about the history of the Food and Beverage Tax (FBT) here. You can read an analysis of the actual wording of the ordinance here, and understand why the city manager’s interpretation of it is arbitrary and incorrect. The “crisis” in the utilization of the FBT is caused by the city manager’s misinterpretation of the current ordinance.
Meanwhile, over at the Citizens’ Budget Committee, we are told how great the city’s financial situation is, and that there’s plenty of money for everything. This, after the city manager himself and numerous previous finance directors, councilors, and mayors have acknowledged the structural deficit in the city’s finances that exists despite the budget being balanced.
You can read about the actual effect on the General Fund budget here, and learn how mathematically there is no magical creation of money to be reutilized elsewhere, as has been claimed.
You can read about the attempt to portray franchise fees as an innocuous way to raise money here. In fact, franchise fees are an indirect tax on the end users, in other words you, the taxpayers of the city. They are proposing removing funding of streets from the FBT, and replacing it with those franchise fees that you pay every month on all of your utility bills.
You can read about how the measure is a backdoor method of gaining funding opportunities for expensive capital projects here.
And you can read about how the chairman of APRC, who is also a director of the political action committee pushing for this change, finally admitted the truth here.
Make no mistake, the FBT has always been controversial and unpopular. People have accepted it grudgingly as a method to pay for the expensive wastewater treatment plant which continues to require large investments to make its effluent acceptable in quality and to maintain the infrastructure.
Now that the original debt for the wastewater treatment plant has been retired, the remaining 73% of the FBT is available for other beneficial uses.
The latest Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) calls for expenditures of $178M in the next six years. You can read about it here. Included in that is a new Water Treatment Plant that is now estimated to cost the taxpayers $70M. You can be sure that the final cost will be much higher. Your water bills will increase astronomically, as well as every other utility bill. You can read about just some of those changes here.
Is this the right time to be dedicating a seventeen year revenue stream which can easily amount to more than $70M exclusively to APRC? Of course not. There is no way that it can possibly be justified.
This is the last chance for the voters of Ashland to call for fiscal responsibility. This is, in effect, a referendum on the way City Hall is spending our taxes.
Ashland is better than this. Ashland deserves better than this.
Everyone loves our parks. Everyone wants APRC to be successful managing and maintaining our parks system. But the city is in no position to dedicate scarce financial resources to expanding APRC’s holdings, which will inevitably result in a degradation of the physical resources that we already enjoy.
It’s a question of wants versus needs. It’s time to put a hard stop to the disregard of the taxpayers’ and the city’s financial futures. It’s time to save our parks.
The way to do that is to vote NO on Measure 15-214.