If you thought you were going to find out how much a new government under the proposed charter will cost you, you are going to be sorely disappointed.
Monday night the Charter Review Commission finally adopted their “Financial Disclosure Summary.” This was supposed to disclose what the financial impact of adopting the new charter might be.
The poverty of this document is stunning but not surprising. In effect, the Commission declined to risk any kind of projection as to what the cost of the transition to the new government might be or what the cost of this new government might be over the first year or for any time frame for that matter.
Commission member Jeff Altamari, its author, defended the document by saying that there were so many unknowns that he only felt comfortable using the most minimal known figures from the charter. I have both respect and sympathy for Mr. Altamari. He had neither the resources nor the time to figure out what he and the commission envisioned this new government to actually consist of and therefore had to base his analysis on a minimal series of assumptions.
His document simply states that the cost savings of eliminating the salaries and benefits of the commissioners and their deputies along with the costs incurred for a city manager, six council members and the increase in salary for the new mayor will add up to a savings of $391,000.00. He then covers himself by admitting that these numbers do not represent the actual costs of the new government.
One of the big problems with this financial analysis is that the major savings are based on the assumption that the deputies will disappear along with the Commissioners. The proposed charter, however, states that the deputies will continue after January 1st at the discretion of the city manager. Nevertheless the financial analysis assumes the savings of the eliminated deputies as though their last day of work were the day before the charter takes effect.
The document’s financial calculations, as written here, would also rest on the huge assumption that the new city manager alone will be able to absorb the work done by five full time deputies and four part time commissioners. Previous discussions by the commission during the year had assumed there would probably be a need for at least a deputy city manager. Budgeting for an external auditor was also dismissed in the drafting of this document.
In their defense, no attempt was made to hide the poverty of this financial analysis. The document states:
“No attempt is made to conjecture about costs and savings that may be the result of future actions by a Council Manager government.”
“The above [the table of numbers] does not include any costs that may be incurred transitioning from a Commission to a Council-Manager form of government.”
In something of an understatement they write: “The above are strictly estimates and are not guarantees of savings.”
The Charter Commission is simply stating as an act of faith that the city will save money.