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Raslan: Using My Finance Skills to Better Inform Residents

by Tarek Raslan | GUEST COLUMN | Oct 6, 2017 11:00 am

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Posted to: Ansonia, Ansonia Election 2017, News by You

My experience as a financial analyst with Citibank managing billions in investments, helps me to present residents with a clear understanding of our financial reality.

Budgets vs. Audits

Budgets are forecasts, what the city would LIKE to spend. Budgets have little restrictions on ACTUAL spending… if spending increases beyond the budget, no problem…City Hall spends more money, they take it from savings, they sell assets, and they borrow. Budgets get all the attention, but the Audits are more important in tracking what city hall actually spent. The difference between budget figures and audit figures can vary widely. For example, the 2016 Audit shows the city spent $70,027,269 while the 2015-2016 Budget for the same year projected $62,395,098…a difference of $7.6 million! That tells me that our budgets have very little grounding in reality. When “Team Cassetti” says “We cut our spending in this year’s budget”… I’ll believe it when I see it. Actual spending under Cassetti is up $4.2 million from when he took office, I’ll assume that will continue until the Audits say otherwise.
 
City Savings Levels

I’ve stated current levels are ok, but our trajectory however is NOT OK. When we are losing $265,000 per month, and Cassetti’s latest budget calls for another $3.5 million spending from savings, we’re getting into dangerous territory. If Cassetti acknowledged that a $3.2 million deficit was unsustainable, I’d have some confidence in his ability to manage our finances…he’s saying they’re going to stay the course, as a taxpayer that has me worried.  
 
If “Team Cassetti” decided that our savings was too high, and wanted to spend it down by $10 million, wouldn’t it have been better to propose some potential creative uses for those funds? Think of what could have been done with $10 million that could have significantly improved our city’s economy, property prices, and long term tax rate stability. We could have built a community center, revamped our library, invested in our parks, revamped the armory, built an amphitheater downtown, created an arts center. What did we get?
 
Grand List Growth

The Grand List is the total value of all real estate and personal property in the city. It can grow in two ways, 1) new development 2) increasing property prices. “Team Cassetti” touts $8 million in grand list growth over four years as success. $8 million in grand list growth equates to $300K in new tax revenue, that’s 1/13th of what would be needed to cover the $4.2 million spending increase from Cassetti…it’s not even close to enough. $2 million per year in grand list growth is also very low compared to Ansonia’s historic average. From 2001 to 2013, before Cassetti took office, Ansonia’s net grand list grew from $675,764,650 to $865,893,403 (according to city budgets) that’s an average ANNUAL grand list growth of $14.6 million. “Team Cassetti’s” $2 million per year growth is less than 1/7th of the historic average. When we look beyond our immediate neighbors, we also don’t stack up very well.
 

If Ansonia is going to succeed long term, we need to significantly change the economic trajectory of our city.

The author, a Democrat, is running for mayor in the City of Ansonia.

Views expressed in guest columns (aka ‘letters to the editor’) and press releases do not necessarily reflect the views of ValleyIndy.org. The Valley Indy has a 550-word limit on guest columns.

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