The $47-million question

Whenever anyone raises concerns about the lavish scale of City Manager Sheryl Sculley’s contract, rushed through a compliant City Council just ahead of the holiday break, her supporters always insist that her salary is chump change compared to the money she’s saved this city since arriving from Phoenix in 2005. `See “Year in review: Keep the bums in,” December 23, 2008.`

At the Council’s December 11 session, as councilmembers contemplated (and approved) a new contract for Sculley, they frequently applied a hard dollar figure to Sculley’s vaunted expertise. Quoting Mayor Phil Hardberger, Diane Cibrian stated that Sculley had saved local taxpayers $47 million over the last three years.

The $47-million figure is tossed out routinely, in much the same way Ronald Reagan’s admirers casually contend that the Gipper single-handedly brought down the Soviet Empire. The Current hasn’t had much luck getting anyone at City Hall to pin down exactly where the number comes from, however.

Two days before the Council’s vote on the Sculley contract, the Mayor’s office, in an email to the Current, credited the City Manager with budget savings of $17 million — $9 million in payroll reductions created by Sculley’s reorganization of various City departments, and $8 million in interest (due to San Antonio’s October, 2008 upgrade, to a AAA bond rating).

Even if we accept those numbers, that still leaves $30 million unaccounted for. Given that Hardberger is always publicly cited as the original source of the “$47 million” quote, the Current recently attempted to obtain an itemized breakdown of Sculley’s budget slashing from the Mayor’s office, but received no response to our repeated requests. The Office of Management & Budget proved to be more cooperative, but still couldn’t provide the figures. They turned the question over to the office of Communications and Public Affairs, which took it back to the source: the Mayor’s office.

Predictably, that’s where we once again hit a brick wall. It looks like this is a $47-million question that could go unanswered.

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