Thursday, August 9, 2007

Capital Projects

Today AP celebrates the 5 year anniversary of the founding of his company, and I am celebrating by undertaking a combination of household chores, DVD viewing....and blogging!

I have decided to try and improve the transparency of government, in this case by listing the 10 most expensive projects funded in the FY 2008 capital budget.

The operating budget funds recurring expenses, such as employee/police/fire salaries. It may surprise you to know that the vast majority of your property tax money is designated in negotiations between the city and whatever union it is negotiating with to renew contracts--and there is not a whole heck of a lot we can do about it. The operating budget this year is about $75 million, and come of this goes to the below mentioned capital budget.

The capital budget is where the real money is spent, on infrastructure, renovation, and things of this nature. Some $186 million in capital projects are funded this year. The amounts that are listed represent the total amount spent on these projects in all years, not the amount spent this year.

So here they are:

1. Hillman Parking Garage Replacement-$22.5 million
2. Police Department Renovation (late and over budget) $15.1 million
3. General Roadway Improvements-$14.5 million
4. Undergrounding of Power Lines-$14.4 million
5. New Recreation Center-$14 million
6. Outer West Street Gateway-$10 million
7. City Dock Bulkhead Replacement-$8.9 million
8. Maryland Avenue Improvements-$6 million
9. Truxtun Park Pool Replacement-$5.9 million
10. Sixth Street Improvements-$4.4 million

As you can see, these projects cost a lot of money. As citizens, we need to get involved early in the process and voice our disagreement if we don't want to pay for a specific project.

Some of the projects are unquestionably legitimate--but some are controversial. The West Street Gateway is basically a $10 million arch-way and welcome sign at the west boundary of the city limits near Old Solomon's Island Rd. Do we really need this? Not to mention they want to put a traffic circle there, with a major traffic light/intersection only 500 feet away.

Why are we spending $14.5 million on general road improvements, AND ANOTHER $4.4 million on Sixth Street alone? Is this a gateway to Eastport? I would be that Eastport residents would much rather trade the Sixth Street Improvements for more police to combat the recent wave of violent crime there.

Taxes and the budget are probably the most important things the city does. Stay vigilant, and watch how your money is spent!