Wednesday, March 09, 2011

RTA Spending Plan

What is wrong with the RTA Spending Plan?

The current estimated cost of all the projects must be made. The projected income from the half cent sales tax must be made. The two figures must be compared. The termination date of the RTA must be discussed as a reality deadline and not something that will get even more money eventually. This RTA thing should be finished at the sunset date: this means any debt and the projects.

It is obvious that paper compliance is more important than the reality of what revenue the RTA is expected to generate and what the community can afford from these tax monies. Going in debt because 'scheduled' projects are projected to cost so much more than will actually be generated is both costly and foolish.

Poor planning.

Practicality would indicate that a spending pattern based on what is actually generated per month would be adopted. Just starting a project with no funds to finish it is not "compliance" with what the voters thought they were getting; it is a waste of money. Voters need to revote on the RTA. Why is this illusory 'compliance' so important? Could they lose their revenue stream due to nonperformance?

Since they are non compliant, perhaps voters should decide how this remaining RTA money should be spent. The RTA people want to go into debt, which would add $35 million to the cost of these projects they just want to get started on. Taxpayers cannot afford any more public debt that ties up future revenue streams in debt service. The cities need more ready cash from local taxes, not more encumbrances that suck a 35% profit out of local taxpayers, reducing the value of the tax dollar to 66%. Moneylenders will walk away with $35 million out of this community. We cannot afford this just to hurry up and get started.

Reduce the scope of projects. Focus on the project with the most safety concerns or focus on funding sidewalks, bike paths, bus pullouts and all those things that actually benefit the citizens. How about a nice bike path that could be used for the Bicycle Tour and others and then by the locals? This would be a tourist draw, useful for locals and affordable, according to actual RTA revenue, not borrowed cash that ties up cash for years to come. A nice safe Tour track winding all around Tucson would be a boon to the community.

What I am really saying here is that the RTA projects need to be rethought now, not after the RTA borrows and squanders $135 million in tax money, leaving behind an interminable debt. We never voted to give away a third of the money to moneylenders. We voted for the money to be spent on the projects. Since they obviously cannot afford to complete all the projects, let's forget them and start over. Take it to the voters in the next election. In the meantime, slow the spending and collect the funds as they come in. No more borrowing. Contract only for what funding actually exists.

Come up with some projects that would benefit the community, bring in seasonal tourism, open up small business zoning, and encourage the use of bicycles and buses around town. Revamp the bus system by creating bus centers in shopping malls and near medical facilities and the University. Repair existing roads. Stop the RTA from wasting money on beginning projects they don't have the money to finish.

I call for a forensic audit of the RTA planning and spending. The RTA appears to be following the same reasoning and actions that the Rio Nuevo boondoggle followed. The Tucson City Council and Pima County need to revisit the RTA election promises and get started on a logical action plan that does not further indebt the taxpayers.

According to Councilman Steve Kozachik, the planned borrowing by the RTA will result in $50 million of taxpayer money going to moneylenders for interest. The new fire station cost $38 million, just to give you an idea of what this borrowing is costing the Tucson community. You can add the new fire station and the new parking garage downtown as an example of what $50 million taxpayer dollars will buy. The city of Tucson cannot afford to lose $50 million just because the RTA is behind schedule.

We need a revote on the RTA projects because not enough money will be generated to pay for them and they are behind schedule. The hierarchy of the RTA has also said that a $9 million project that now will cost $22 million is what the voters wanted. Their callous attitudes towards cost overruns and taxpayer money is blatantly obvious.

I call for an audit and a commitment to deny further cost overruns on RTA projects. If bidders cannot meet their bid, then call in their bond and get somebody else.