Playing tennis and juggling the city budget
By DICK TRAIL
At the last City Council meeting Mr. School Board President, Greg Larson, asked the city to kick in $75,000, out of the city's new budget, to help refurbish and build new tennis courts. It was presented as a bargain as the project would cost multi-$100,000s, so by sharing in the cost, the public would have use of the courts except when the school had them reserved.
Evidently school money isn't to be used for the general public if the city doesn't participate, but that aside, a majority of the council members seemed to favor the project. No vote was taken to amend the proposed budget but the mayor asked the city clerk to see if she could find the money, perhaps transferring it from one of the many reserve funds and the council will consider action next meeting.
When I sat on the council, such requests were always a moral dilemma for me. I believe that the city is in the business of providing public safety (police and fire), maintaining the streets, providing water and sewer and employing a labor force to get those things done. Those things are really the business that the city is chartered to do. But then there are a host of other things that the city does for its citizens; the Senior Center, the Handibus, the parks, the swimming pool, tennis courts, walking trails and more.
I skipped the airport because I think it is essential and I may be a little prejudiced. Needs have to be prioritized and tough decisions made because there is a limit to how much tax money the public is willing to part with.
Do we need the tennis courts? I don't know and am glad I don't have to make that decision. I'd rather leave that tax money with the people who earned it, but then I don't play tennis.
Besides, the city will collect the money anyway and put it into one of their generous reserve (spelled "slush") funds.
Bureaucracy is a wonderful system for decision making because it is so easy to obfuscate, delay and never make a decision and, if one is made, to deny that you were for or against it.
The school board attempted to put their tennis court funds request before the city's Parks Board six months ago, but that group of citizens never saw or had a chance to act on the request.
During the budget process, Kyle Potthoff, the Public Works Director, included the $75,000 line item in his parks budget request. Then, City Manager Bingham threw it out during his budget review.
Possibly John Bingham will kill the item again by not allowing it to be on the agenda. If it shows, the City Council will have to make a decision as to whether the expenditure of $75,000 is worthy. They can't hide their vote, yes or no.
It will be fun to watch and I'd place my bet on a "Yes" vote.