You may have read the article in the DCI several weeks ago about the Orchard City audit and that it was quite positive. But as a retired CPA, I can tell you the inside story of the audit.
As you know, our water rates increased 25 percent or more; some up to 85 percent over previous years. The audit revealed that the city made over $106,000 in 2016 at the old rates. In addition to this, the board spent just under $77,000 on repairs and improvement while in the previous three years the average spent on our aging water system was over $377,000 per year; a reduction of nearly 80 percent from prior years. If you remember the letter that came out in March informing us that our water rates had to be raised, the city stated that the rates had not kept pace with the ongoing rise in the cost of doing business which they determined to be about 7.44 percent per year.
One board member responded to the above by stating the reason the city made over $106,000 in 2016 was because the water department was understaffed and had been that way for the past 16 months. This response raises at least two questions: If the water department can survive for more than a year with these positions being vacant, are they truly essential to operations OR if these positions are vital to the operation of our water system, then why did the city leave us, the water users, in jeopardy for over a year?
And here's another simple question: If the city made money at the old rates and actually reduced spending, were the statements made in their March letter conjecture or reality? You decide.
In addition to the above, you may remember some flap about the city needing additional funding for repairing the roads and thus the board turned to marijuana as a possible source of revenue. The audit revealed that the additional funds the city needed were there all along. The board claimed they needed an additional $60,000 per year for upcoming road projects. But the board failed to look at their own books and realize that over the past three years the road fund actually grew by over $187,000 resulting in an annual increase of over $62,000, more than enough to meet the proposed road projects. In other words, the board created all this flap about marijuana and increasing sales taxes and raising a mill levy over nothing.
One additional item of note: while the city sat on just under $5.7 million in cash at the beginning of 2016, they managed to garner a return on their investments of $17,739 or just 1/3 of 1 percent.
When you put all of the above together, what kind of picture does it paint in your mind? Does it paint a picture of calm and tranquility or are you wondering what the heck is going on in city hall? Is the city being managed to your satisfaction or do you see major errors being committed at our expense? You have the right to get the answers to your questions.
If you like the way things are progressing, then stay at home and watch your hard earned money being eaten away by the avarice beast known as the Orchard City board but if you don't like what you see or hear, then get out of your chair and join the other concerned citizens at the upcoming town hall meeting on Wednesday (today) at 7 p.m. You can also attend any or all board meetings the first and second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. at town hall.