Year in Review: Pennies from heaven

Call it the Miracle at Military Plaza. For much of the summer, we heard that SA was facing a serious budget
crunch, with a projected deficit of nearly
$14 million in fiscal 2009 and a
panic-inducing $58 million the following year.

In June, Mayor Phil Hardberger talked openly about the possibility of slowing down the city’s road-maintenance program, cutting funding for Project Quest, or even dipping into SA’s closely guarded fiscal reserves.

By early August, however, all those money problems magically vanished, thanks to the revenue-munching prowess of CPS Energy. The City-run utility reported that an unusually hot summer and rising fuel prices had driven CPS bills up enough to deliver a $25-million swing from the red into the black. Not mentioned, of course, was a 2008 CPS rate increase, which surely made the sleight-of-hand possible.

We’re all for budget surpluses, but when the left hand brags about giving residents a half-of-one-percent property- tax decrease while the right hand is hiking their utility rates, the whole enterprise feels slightly disingenuous. The $25 million that saved Council from making tough budget decisions didn’t just turn up in a sock closet. `And PR-wise, arrived in a timely fashion, on the heels of a Current exposé of internal staff bloodletting and rampant discrimination lawsuits; see “Electrical bill (hidden costs)” this page.` We were taxed for that money, albeit via CPS. Even muggers are honest enough not to pretend that they’re doing you a favor when they agree to leave you a dollar for bus fare. Shouldn’t we expect Council to meet that same low standard?

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