Thursday, November 06, 2008

Standard-Examiner: Ogden Feeling Financial Shivers

Big Spending Boss Godfrey reluctantly drops into "frugality mode"

This morning's Standard-Examiner reports that our big-spending mayor has suddenly absorbed a dose of economic reality, and ordered city department heads to slash city budgets by 4%:
OGDEN — Mayor Matthew Godfrey has ordered city departments to freeze general fund spending by 4 percent to cover a projected sales tax revenue shortfall spurred by a slumping national economy.
The measure is expected to cut about $2 million from the city’s $51 million fiscal 2009 general fund budget, Godfrey said.
“Cities are the first to be hit in this kind of economic climate,” he said, explaining the reason for the spending freeze.
“ The first thing people do is stop shopping. We want to make sure precautions are taken to carefully save sales tax revenue.”
Based on early economic indicators, Ogden expected to receive about $15.2 million in sales tax revenue during fiscal 2009, which ends June 30, but is now projecting it will get only about $13.2 million, said Mark Johnson, the city’s management services director. [...].
Department heads in the city have discretion in determining how to freeze general fund spending within their individual budgets, Johnson said.
Over the course of the last 8 years Boss Godfrey has been a one-trick pony, borrowing and spending like a madman, relentlessly fueling his megalomaniacal obsession to make over Ogden City into one giant kiddie amusement park.

But now that the city is in a forced frugality mode, the question arises: What happens next? Now that Godfrey has made it clear that he'll "scrounge up every dime he can from every piggy bank on every desk or wallet of every worker for the city as well as every city tax payer," (source) what happens to his ongoing signature pet projects?

As recently as September 10 of this year, Godfrey's spokesmen were urging the Ogden RDA to zero out its bank account, for piecemeal acquisitions of unacquired properties in the languishing River Project area.

And then there's the Ice Tower... and the Velodrome... and the Junction Money Pit (which has already soaked up at least $1.5 million in taxpayer dollars beyond Godfrey's original projections - with no end in sight,) and the whole array of other hare-brained plots and schemes that rattle around the Godfrey brain, and keep the little feller scheming late into the night.

As the the government of Emerald City hunkers down to weather the percipient 2008 recession -- and trims budgets beyond the bare bone -- will the Godfrey and his economic development "A" Team follow suit and lead by example? Or... is the belt-tightening to which Godfrey refers restricted to the "little people?"

Who will be the first to speak up about this?

13 comments:

what will it cost us said...

The mayor waited until after the election to say the city has to cut 4% from city spending. I'm sure that is for all of the departments, except his.

I find it interesting that at the end of the article how Wal-Mart won't be providing property taxes until 2011, how are they exempt from taxes since they own the property, says Mark Johnson city's management service director.

Trentelmans article on Ed Allens losing and how his involement with lift Ogden might of had an effect. Maybe the gondola and selling the golf course are really dead after this election cycle.

On the inside said...

What will it cost us, you are you are absolutely right -- everyone -- all departments are required to cut back, while he continues with his sneaky and problematic campground, while he goes on with his plans for a veladrome. He feels so extravagant that the City just gave a $3.2 million dollar structure away! This nutcase needs to be committed to a mental institution! Of course his reasoning is that we have to continue to develop Ogden City so that we can increase our tax base in this recession -- we give away the store and kill the taxpayer and employees in the process! (That last part is my contribution to his plan.)

And, WWICUS, don't think for one minute that the gondola is dead. This election results only means that the Mayor's cousin, Senator Scott Jenkins, will have to work without Ed Allen help and support on legislation that one way or another (either a deal with WSU or some landuse finagling) to make it possible.

There are three things to remember about Godfrey: 1, He never gives up (He has promised various business people and developers that Ogden will have an urban gondola and he couldn't stand to lose face with them), 2. When he is backed into a cornor, he fights harder, 3. The more difficult it is for him to achieve his goals, the more devious and conniving he becomes and the more willing he is to resort to underhanded actions.

Don't expect to see any changes in Godfrey's behavior except that he will be more insidious than usual. His usual big schemes that require the city council to come up with millions of dollars will continue. Just watch!

ozboy said...

Do you suppose the Lil Lord will ding his clique of empty suits for 4% of their grossly over paid salaries?

How about Geiger's wife's $68,000 salary? Is that sacred? What the hell does she do anyway, anyone here know? And how about the $5,000 spiff to her biz genius son, are the Ogden tax payers still going to pony up for that insider give away?

My guess is that the incompetent insider gang of the Lil Lord will be the very last to give up anything in this alleged "belt tightening"

ticket anyone? said...

Maybe they ought to start with the cars each department director is provided, plus fuel and service of those vehicles.

Godfrey announced a hiring freeze to the employees the day before he hires a replacement for Harmer, I would say that Godfrey considers himself exempt from the rules.

Also if the city is lagging on revenue, you all better make sure there are no piddley infraction to codes on your property, rest assurred, the code enforcemant will be stepping up their ticket writing campaign, unless your a friend of Matts.

And the cops will most likely have their ticket quotas raised, but they will ot see any pay for performance increases this year, they just need to perform and perform better.
Keep those chicken shit tickets coming, I want to do my fair share of contributing to the city coffers.

Curmudgeon said...

Certainly the criticisms above, as they relate to running the city into unwise debt to found projects that may... or may not... pan out is on target. Certainly the Mayor did assure us all that putting the city on the hook for making the Junction construction bonds good was a mere formality, and that the city was never really going to have to pony up the money, because the project would be so successful straight out of the gate, that it would generate the necessary funds to pay the bonds with no worries. And we all know how that turned out.

And certainly, in these parlous times, sinking deeper and deeper into the Bush Republican recession, and maybe depression [please, God, no?], making more speculative gambles on developing niche sports venues with city funds is of doubtful wisdom, to say the least.

But some of the carping above is... well, just naive. Of course he delayed the public announcement of the spending cuts to after the election. So would I have had i been Mayor. Winning election as Mayor allows you to time announcements like that. Comes with the territory. And he did give dept. heads a heads-up on the coming cuts a while ago so they could prep for them. Nothing really to carp about there that I can see.

As for wondering if he's cutting the pay of his executive staff: as I read the announcement today, he's not cut the pay of anyone. He's told departments to cut back expenditures by 4%, which usually is accomplished by not filling vacant positions, by postponing maintenance, and cutting back in other ways. He has not --- not yet anyway --- imposed an across the board pay cut for city workers, and exempted his own staff's pay. Should such a draconian thing become necessary, I think not even Hizzonah would be so tone deaf to the politics of it as to exempt his own pay and that of his staff. [Though his frequent political tone-deafness is well established, I have to concede.]

As for "giving away a $3.2 million dollar structure." Well, that's what it cost to build it about a decade ago. That does not mean that's what it's worth on the market today. [Ask anyone who is upside down on their mortgage how that works.] Was there anyone clamoring to pay Ogden millions for a parking structure that cost more to operate and maintain than it brought in in revenues? And the building was costing the city tens of thousands a year in subsidies to operate.

I don't know if giving it away to get out from under the maintenance and operation costs was a wise move or not. [I haven't researched it and I don't have enough information to say for sure.] What I'm suggesting here is that it does not seem to me, on the basis of what's known so far, that the answer is unequivocally and plainly "no, it wasn't." And four Council members thought the answer was "yes." I wish they'd taken more time to look into the matter, and see if there were other options. Perhaps they had already done that. I still don't understand the need for such a seeming rush to judgment, or why Ms. Jeske's request that it be put over for a couple of weeks couldn't have been accommodated. But as to the final question, was the transfer wise or not? I don't know. The answer is not obvious beyond dispute.

what will it cost us said...

Speaking about enforcement, I drove by the new Wal Mart site on Wall and it looks worse than the burned out homes for the river project. Broken windows, furniture, open doors to invite crime. When will they start burning down for the insurance? How long will the city keep the mayors friends out of trouble. Maybe we can fine these property owners and have some revenue coming in rather than making the taxpayers make up for lost revenue.

disgusted said...

curm
someone needs to explain to me how giving a paid off 3.3 million dollar parking garage away to a landlord will cause the tenant to stay in ogden.
someone needs to tell me what happens if the tenant decides to move to another building.
someone needs to tell me how ogden city can replace a similar sized and convienently located parking garage in downtown for even the depreciated cost of the one we gave away. remember that godfrey was going to spend 6 million to build a similarly sized parking garage for the midtown development corp. it will not be cheap to replace that asset.
someone needs to tell me why the city could not have just leased part of the garage to the landowner for a little more money so the landlord would retain a tenant. we could have even just made the landlord responsible for maintaining the garage and been better off.
someone needs to tell me where convention center attendees during daytime functions are to park. this action will not help that facility to attract business.
someone needs to tell me why the garage was not put up for sale to establish an interest within the marketplace for the asset. quit saying since no one was interested in buying it that it might have been the right thing for the city to do. we will never know if there was any interest because potential buyer never had a chance to bid on the asset.
some one needs to tell me how the reduction of the citys asset base and assets to liability ratio is going to help us in our financing activities.
this was the most bs not thought out deal he has ever done and from what i can tell everyone including the city council wants to sweap it under the rug. pretty disgraceful.

Curmudgeon said...

Disgusted:

Many of the questions you raised are the ones I thought it would have been wise of the Council to have raised in the week or two delay Ms. Jeske requested. What I don't know, though, is whether any or all of these questions were asked by Council members, and answered to their satisfaction, in the weeks preceding the vote, at a work session perhaps.

I didn't say you were wrong about this, D, merely that I didn't have enough information, and still don't, to pronounce on the wisdom one way or the other.

Frank said...

Disgusted

In MattGodfreyWorld all of your questions and concerns are trumped by one word - Cronyism.

Ogden Resident said...

First question I have to ask is this 4% cut on top of the two previously announce 2% cuts or is this cut just the public announcement of those cuts. Either way it is not a proactive move on the administration’s part in that these actions should have taken place over six months ago when there were economic dark clouds on the horizon and when it seemed all other cities and the state offices themselves were taking action. Ogden City has now had a revelation and now expects $ 2 million less in its projected $ 15.2 million sales receipts or basically 13.2% reduction. Layton City is projecting a $300,000 short fall. Why is Layton’s deficit number so much less, because Layton had already cut their budget over six months ago. The Ogden City administration is just starting to realize something that Layton realized six months ago.

There may be more at work here than it appears. Godfrey may have had the same understanding about the state of the economy but needed time to move city funds around to support his vision.

Does anyone recall that the administration has spent the prior four months moving money around from various department budgets within the city? First he claimed that we had a surplus carry over from last years budget (which if you look at the prior years budget you would see that the city was running a deficit and the city hadn’t accounted for under performing assets such as the Junction. Assets that throw off both last years and this years budget numbers to an even larger negative number). He asked that those surplus dollars be allocated to the business development projects within the city, rather than applied to the Junction City deficit, which the City Council went along with.

He then claimed that counter to the rest of the nation, counter to the rest of the cities in the state of Utah and counter to that of the State itself that Ogden City was still seeing it revenues grow. He claimed that our current budget had been under estimated and that the city’s anticipated receipts would be greater than budgeted. At which point he then asked the City Council for those increased revenues to be diverting or at least a majority of those funds to be diverted to his various pet projects while maintaining in the press that Ogden’s economy was better than anywhere in the state. I’m not sure that this wasn’t all a big sham on his behalf to ensure that his projects maintained their funding when the day of reckoning finally came for the rest of the City Departments. I am upset with our City Council for not paying better attention to what was going on with our city’s finances and with what was going on at the State level (recall that the State reconvened in a special session to cut the budget because they saw the slow down coming and yet our city officials took no notice of the State’s action). The City Council should have been throwing any identified additional dollars into a rainy day fund or if not that then they should have at least put up a better fight to account for the use of those new found funds. City Council is not doing their job.

It’s my opinion that the administration has successfully diverted over the last four months a large enough amount of City money into the mayor’s economic development department to ensure the continuation of that departments activities at current levels and at a level that is probably disproportionate to the other departments. That department now claims that they can achieve the reductions in their department by simply cutting back a little on their travel and training. Rather telling isn’t it? Try explaining that to some of the other departments that will leave positions unfilled or cut back on services or maintenance of their equipment.

Folks what this all means is that your services are going to be reduced while Godfrey’s A Team continues business as usual.

Curmudgeon said...

ogden:
And deferred maintenance, while it can be a short term... a very short term... tactic to deal with budget shortfalls, ends up if it goes on too long, costing the city much much more than it would have cost to maintain the physical plant and equipment on schedule. That, after all... perpetually deferred maintenance... is what dug us into the humongous sewer and water repair hole we are not paying significantly higher rates and carrying large bonds to dig us out of. And perpetually deferred maintenance helped dig us into the school buildings hole we are in as well, I think.

And I think most of the current shortfall would have been made up by the city not having had to shell out for Junction construction bond servicing, wouldn't it? Or close anyway?

drewmeister said...

Curm, why should he care about long-term maintenance? By the time shit really hits the fan and all of our infrastructure falls apart from neglect, he'll have climbed the political cronyism ladder on up to State Rep, maybe even take Daddy's old State Senate seat? Who knows what potential this Maverick has in store.. with the electorate in this state being so keen on critical thinking and logical reasoning, why.. maybe someday we could be speaking about Governor Godfrey? What a speshul, sweet spirit and precious character. We'll all be so blessed to have his leadership at such a level.

-violent, dramatic gagging-

what will it cost us said...

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