Steve Stewart, Dana Point
Councilman Muller’s opinion article in the latest Dana Point Times deserves comment.
Residents who have studied the city’s financials understand that since 2008 the city has burned through millions in funds due to years of deficit spending. Successive councils since 2008 either did not understand or ignored the reality that the city was spending its “net worth” at an alarming rate—total worth down $34 million from 2008 to 2017. The data is available online from the city’s annual financial reports. That spending pattern is unsustainable and will lead to dire financial straits. In fact, that outcome is coming into view right now and Muller’s optimistic comment comparing reserves to projected income is largely irrelevant to the underlying situation.
Muller uses his opportunity for an opinion article to find fault with Mayor Debra Lewis when she wants to explore further cost cutting options in a budget meeting. He takes exception to the cost cutting approach and instead argues we can largely keep our current spending levels just by increasing revenue. He thinks the Lantern District can generate up to $1 million annually in property and sales tax revenue, enough to sustain us until more hotels come on line. If only that were true.
Fact—the city’s own consultants, Keysor Marsden, estimated in 2015 that it would take up to 10 years to build out the Lantern District. When fully built out, a decade in the future, they estimated annual revenue then, from sales and property tax, would be about $600,000. Not $1 million ever or anytime soon.
Consider that our total policing bill from the OC Sheriff is now $12 million and goes up every year by about $600,000 / (five percent) annually. The annual police bill consumes everything we collect yearly from hotels in occupancy tax. That annual cost increase will consume everything we would get from the Lantern District, when it is fully built in 10 years, in just one year. How is any of that sustainable? The Lantern District is clearly a revenue pipe dream but always fodder for useless political arguments about Measure H. Could Mayor Lewis be onto something? Maybe it really is time to look at city expenses very seriously.
For readers who want to understand our city overhead better, use the following link to look at city employee salaries http://www.danapoint.org/home/showdocument?id=21921. Read that, consider the Sheriff’s bill and then ask whose priorities are out of order here? Councilman Muller needs to spend more time absorbing valid economic information and less time trying to politicize our city government.
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