Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
Last night’s (8/30) special council meeting, prior to the tax rate public hearing and discussion, was all about money. It was the third budget review session where the focus was on additional information regarding questions council members had from their last meeting. We say “questions council members had,” yet in reality only three individuals asked questions at all—the Mayor, Ivan Hughes and Bruce Arfsten. FM has attended all three budget review meetings and found it quite startling that despite the three newly elected council members promising in their campaign materials to cut “outrageous spending,” hardly a peep is heard from any of the three. When one of them did speak, it was to push for more spending, by Walden advocating an automatic increase in the COLA (cost of living allowance) for each and every year in addition to the existing retirement pay and other increases like Duffy’s recommendation last night to add an additional $2000.00 to the Metrocrest Clinic, a motion that passed.
An example of nothing being questioned yet later distorting what really happened is Walden’s latest post on Facebook where he writes, “The mayor appears to be comfortable with a tax rate of 59 cents per $100 while the city manager and most of the rest of the council are discussing 56 cents.” Well the facts are that at the August 8 meeting the Mayor threw that out as a suggestion, most likely to see how others felt, but NO ONE, not Paul Walden or any of the other councilmen who were there asked one question, made one comment or challenged that possibility and it was Walden who made the motion to approve .59 as the potential maximum rate and they all voted to accept it—including Walden. So, it appears Walden himself was “comfortable” with it.
In order to fully grasp just what kind of pay and benefits Addison employees are currently receiving and to see what increases are being proposed (with and without COLA adjustments), the Mayor had requested an itemized breakout of personnel expenditures. The breakout chart is below for your review. Some areas of pay were quite surprising to some council members—for example, Vacation Buyback—where if an employee chooses not to use all their vacation time the town pays the employee for the time instead—and Sick Leave Buyback, where again, if allowed sick leave time is not used the employee can be paid for the time not used. Additionally there is $76,890 proposed for Sick Leave Bonus. These two situations, in particular, got guests attending the meeting commenting to one-another how that certainly was not something any of them had in their private sector careers.
The other category guests buzzed about was the Longevity Pay category where every employee after one year of employment is paid $4/month, or $48/year as an incentive for staying. While it doesn’t seem like much it is not standard in the private sector and it does add $107,706 to the overall budget.
In addition to providing Group Hospital and Life Insurance at a proposed cost of over $3M, the town is required by law to also contribute to Medicare, which is an additional $238,837.
The largest increases are TRMS (Texas Municipal Retirement System) at 11% and Workers Compensation at 31%.
Check out the entire breakouts below for yourself and see how you feel about committing to additionally adding a long-term COLA. The long-term expense of this will be discussed at the next Council meeting, next Tuesday, September 6, where the public will have an opportunity to comment during the tax rate public hearing segment. As they say—speak now, or forever hold your peace.
(Zane: Charts will be sent separately for insertion)
Jim Duffy, who rarely speaks during council meetings, has taken to Facebook to accuse the Mayor for being partially responsible for the Midway Road rebuild shortfall saying Meier was Mayor during the process of appointing a bond committee. He further states, “The mayor’s leadership failed on the Beltline Road electrical undergrounding. His council decided to spend the entire approved bond money on one-half the project without coming back to the voters for approval.” Problem is, he doesn’t have all the facts. Duffy neglects to note that the Mayor did call for a community meeting that allowed citizens to comment and in which Lea Dunn apologized for the miscalculation. Either Duffy didn’t have all his facts or he is selectively using partial information to protect the decisions of the real decision-maker responsible for what was presented to the then council: The City Manager, the man who asked him to run for Council and was his treasurer until Duffy changed that to his wife.
Pay to Play?
Does Addison have its own Pay to Play situation? Paul Walden is pushing for an automatic, long-term COLA for retirees (cost of living allowance) to be added to this year’s budget—to the tune of $55,000 this year alone. Over the long-term the town is immediately and dramatically committed to millions over the years to come. It commits Addison to significantly higher costs well into the future, way past the tenure of anyone on the current council. Not only is Walden’s brother a retired Addison police officer, the Addison Police Association endorsed Walden, Duffy and Angell but Walden alone, received a $2,000.00 donation from their Addison Public Safety PAC during his campaign.
The brother issue, thought to be a potential conflict of interest, was questioned during last week’s budget review meeting but the City Attorney researched the law and found that in this specific incidence, it is not. However, many are seeing its appearances very differently.
Tax Rate Hearing
Only four people spoke at the public hearing regarding the tax rate: Liz Oliphant, Mary Carpenter, Lance Murray and John Price.
Oliphant said, “Our employees have no clue or our residents have no clue of the difference between the tax rate hearing and the budget hearing, because the hearing for the tax rate determines what the budget is and can be.”
She first suggests the town has a very uniformed population but more importantly, she apparently is not herself aware that the state law requires that the council set a budget and then set the tax rate.
She further accused past councils of being “fast and loose with the budget.” But when Carpenter spoke she pointed out that Oliphant once again “misunderstood and misrepresented” the facts. Carpenter also expressed surprise that not a peep of objection was heard from any of the council members when it was suggested at the last budget meeting that the maximum the tax rate this year could be set at .59, which would be two cents over the rollback rate. She said she was concerned that some of the council did not comprehend the budget or the long-term impact. At that same meeting the council, without any questions, approved that .59 suggestion with a roll call vote.
Lance Murray also expressed his financial concerns. He also suggested that regarding the Midway Road project the council consider the possibility of just resurfacing—using more value engineering in the future. Price urged that any COLA should be looked at with a year-to-year basis and that to obligate the town for any long-term period of time would be financially and fiscally irresponsible. “Just don’t do it,” he ended.
A Young Resident—Addison’s Future Generation—Speaks Out
A young resident has given FM permission to share the essence of a letter sent to the Mayor and council regarding the topic of automatic increases in COLA. He only asks we do so without using his name.
“As a young Addison resident, I am writing in strong opposition to any mandatory cost of living adjustments for retirees,” he writes, going on to remind the Mayor and Council that the average age of residents in under 33, he himself being 34. He points out that while some council members suggest a mandatory adjustment is “only fair,” that no cost of living adjustments will be provided for his generation and that we need to keep what is fair in perspective saying that “the majority of residents in this town have no pension and will never have a pension.” He further adds that the congressional leaders want to push Social Security payments for the average Addison resident to 70 years while leaving the current recipients payments untouched. “What part of any of that is fair?” he asks.
He suggests that fairness is to consider the burden of Addison taxpayers. “Forcing us to pay for your existing retiree friends and family while our retirement is very much in doubt is shameful and wrong,” he concludes.
Voice Your Concerns
Approximately 100 to 150 people showed up for the DART meeting last Thursday, August, 25 yet only 4 showed up to comment last night at issues that can dramatically impact the town’s budget next year and into the future. Citizens were urged to express their opinions regarding the proposed expenditures and the automatic COLA consideration by attending the next public comment meeting September 6, before the Council votes on the entire budget on September 13.
It’s YOUR town, YOUR tax dollars and YOUR voice that the Council needs to hear!
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