Will New Council Rubber Stamp Ireton FY 2014 Budget Folly?

We’re Glad Jim Ireton Isn’t a Math Teacher

The newly elected Salisbury city council is on its way to adopting a budget for FY 2014.  Included is a tax rate hike of nearly 8% coupled with a DROP in water and sewer rates.  One thing that appears to be missing is mayor Jim Ireton’s promised “storm water authority”, now laughingly referred to across the country as the “Rain Tax”.

Newly minted council president Jake Day is backpedaling on his campaign commitment not to support a tax hike.  He now claims that he won’t support a tax hike above constant yield.  We’ll give him that one (on style) since the net affect of the rate increase should be revenue neutral.  We wonder if the people who stayed home at the last election will be as forgiving since a sizable number of them will see their taxes rise?

The section of Ireton’s proposed budget that disturbs us most is a cut in the water and sewer rates.  WHAT?  A self-identified conservative is against a cut in government fees (water and sewer fees are not really a tax)?  Sorry to disappoint, but … YES!

Here’s the problem.  Salisbury is showing a sizable surplus in its Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund.  HOWEVER, Salisbury is having to PAY TWICE for its failed waste water treatment plant (WWTP).  By cutting rates now, the city will have to raise them that much more in the future.  The problem is simple.  Ireton hopes to justify future general fund tax hikes because he’s decreased the water and sewer rates.  Given that Ireton makes Barack Obama look like a Reaganite, he just can’t sit idly by and watch tens of millions sit unspent, even if it is in Salisbury’s best interest.  That money needs to be SPENT!  Sadly for Ireton, he can’t spend water and sewer money for every fly by night leftist scheme that comes down the pike, even if he thinks that Jake Day will rubber stamp Ireton’s every whim. (The jury is still out on Day, we all know that Laura Mitchell and Shanie Shields will rubber stamp all sorts of craziness.)

Looking at Ireton’s water and sewer proposal, we’re reminded of his proposal for downtown.  Ireton wants to sell ALL of the city’s parking lots, including lot between the Library and the Plaza.  There’s just one problem – the math doesn’t work on parking:

Empty Spaces in Garage


Spaces Used in Other Lots


Net Available Spaces


New Housing Units 500
Parking Spaces Needed 750
Net Available Spaces (Needed) 697


The math is pretty simple.  If Ireton’s downtown plan comes to fruition, you will need an ADDITIONAL 697 parking spaces (assuming 1.5 cars per unit).  We guess that Jim and his new council majority think everyone who will move downtown will either bike or walk everywhere they want to go.

Ireton’s approach to the water and sewer fund is similar.  He wants to give away water and sewer capacity to subsidize downtown development.  At the same time the city is having to use septage trucks to pump sewage out of the Northwoods industrial park.  He hasn’t finished paying for the first WWTP fiasco, but he wants to cut rates knowing that the city will have to pay for the retro-fit.

By all accounts, Ireton is a pretty good teacher.  Obviously no one has asked him to teach basic arithmetic.

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