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Accountability in LO questioned

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'The short memories of the American voters is what keeps our politicians in office.'

- Will Rogers .

This month we received surprising news, it seems things weren't as difficult in Lake Oswego as we thought. At least not in terms of local government spending during the fiscal year. The Budget Committee spent months receiving input from the public and listening to city management. We were told it was a very tight budget, given actual city expenditure, and that the city needed to raise franchise fees (taxes) to provide Lake Oswego School District with $2 million in assistance.

In the end, the CBC voted 14-0 to reduce/delay proposed expenditures and not increase your taxes. Our city council then voted 4-3 to reverse that decision (and themselves) and increase both your fees (taxes) and their expenditures. We were told there was concern about revenue as the justification for voting against the CBC recommendation and raising our taxes in a down economy.

Yet something just didn't seem right in the lack of details about the justification. The only explanation given was things have changed so trust the council. Now I am a quantitative person so I like to know exactly what has changed, why it changed and by how much! That's my nature.

This month we finally found out what changed. Surprise! The city wasn't spending near the budget as we were told on CBC; it was spending $2.8 million less than budget. Expenditures weren't anywhere near as tight as we were told. In business we call that 'Sandbagging' at its best or 'not in control' at its worst. It's not a good sign even though you like to be under budget.

In this case it's worse because it refutes the statements presented to the CBC throughout the process and the council's justification for raising your taxes. It begs the question 'did the council really need to raise our taxes?' The answer is NO. The details show that it should have been predicted and accountability in city management and the council is now in question. That is not a positive situation, no matter how the 'spin' tries to tell us the city spent less than budgeted.

Even the rating agencies are now questioning the council and the level of their commitment to LOSD through increased taxes. It sure seems like the old 'tax and spend to grow 'philosophy again. Except this time we ended up with less expenditure and more taxes!

Let's see if the council tries to spend those increased taxes or give it back to the taxpayers. Any takers on the council giving it all back?

That's the difference between fiscal responsibility and the dominant 'tax and spend to grow' political group. Live within your means, control your expenditures, and reduce taxes, or do anything to raise revenue even if it's not spent in the current year. It should resonate loudly with all of us. 'We absolutely need that fee increase to solve a 'perceived' crisis, even though that crisis may not really exist. Besides the money will be spent sometime anyway, right?

Do we want 'tax and spend to grow' or fiscal responsibility? It's the core issue in the 2012 election and all citizens need to participate. Feel free to visit COLA LO at http://www.commonsenselo.blogspot.com/ or http://www.commonsenselo.org/ .

Dave Berg is a 20-year resident of Lake Oswego and a board member of COLA LO.