Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What If?

What if the City of Indianapolis simply transferred the water and sewer utilities to Citizens Energy, along with the assumption of the current debt, and received no payments from Citizens Energy as part of the transaction? That's an important question that councilors addressed to the company's CEO, Cary Lykins, at tonight's Administration and Finance Committee. If I understood Lykins, Indianapolis ratepayers could expect to pay about 30% less in water and sewer utility rates if Citizens is not required to borrow money to produce a net cash payment to the City of Indianapolis. That's because the ratepayers will be required to pay for the additional borrowing by the company through its rates. Mayor Greg Ballard is insisting on the cash payment to fund hundreds of millions of dollars in public infrastructure improvements. If he cared more about holding down rates than pork barrel spending, he would have proposed a transaction that would yield the best savings for Indianapolis ratepayers. Citizens should be thinking about that as their councilors ponder approval of the transaction. Unfortunately, it appears most councilors are focused on getting as many projects approved for their districts as possible as part of the transaction rather than holding down rates. This is just another thinly- veiled attempt by Mayor Ballard to raise taxes. For someone who ran on a platform opposing higher taxes, he sure has an affinity for raising them.


interestedparty said...

Not disagreeing with everything you say, but are sidewalk and sewer repair and the infrastructure backbone of the city the same as "pork barrel"?

Gary R. Welsh said...

I consider them pork barrel projects because we are selling off valuable city assets to pave streets and build sidewalks. That's not how we typically fund these kinds of capital improvements. Ballard is essentially trading off higher utility rates for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of capital improvements today, not to mention control of those utilities.

Citizen Kane said...

I've suggested as much to friends and was preparing to write my councilor - to let her know that if anything happens it should be a straight transfer - it is not much different than moving duties to another city department. Any money changing hands is theft and the money will likely be wasted on unnecessary and poorly executed projects anyway.

Downtown Indy said...

Obviously, the street and sidewalk stuff is only to establish some 'see what I did' campaign talking points.

What they are proposing to throw at streets and sidewalks isn't enough to scratch the surface for what NEEDS to be done.

Besides, how many streets and sidewalks are going to be ripped out and replaced as the mandated sewer upgrades occur? Do we want to put in some new streets and sidewalks, then have to pay to do it all again in a couple years?

dcrutch said...

I think the average person, yelling at their Congressman in town halls or waving signs at a protest gathering, is also yowling for transparency in government. It's not that sidewalk and street repairs aren't badly needed. It's not that having a basketball team isn't fun when it's affordable. It's that all manner of solutions to all our problems are not to be done from the sale of THE WATER COMPANY.

Why can't there be separate financial accounting for street repair and professional sports teams facilities? If you want the public to trust you, shoot them straight with upfront finances.

I've got a sign in my front yard that says I'm supposed to be happy that my school district isn't raising taxes. I am. But, I'm unhappy that the temporary fix is to roll funds from one budget to another.

How do we ever trust government, make sound decisions to vote for somebody or fund something, when they're constantly funded from rollovers from this or that? When do we get to the part when we say, "The budget is empty. What do you want to do next?"- instead of these Three-card Monte obfuscations?

Do you want your kid to bring home the bad papers with the poor grades? Don't you really need to face-up to the total, complete, unvarnished truth on how the child's doing in school to make the best decisions? You really don't want to hear, "Oh, but I can bring that grade up with the next test", when you don't have the whole story on HOW their grade got so low that they need to bring it "up with the next test".

Keep the services separate. Keep the accounting simple. Most importantly, tell us the truth!

Marycatherine Barton said...

So sorry to read here that the council may go along with the mayor, and pass this 'sale', which is as AI here reports. One more loss!