Mesa's projected $40 million budget shortfall is being called "Armageddon" and "Apocalypse" by city council members, as if the deficit were an unexpected calamity foisted onto the city from above.
The impending deficit, however, is the result of one thing: irresponsible budgeting. City officials set a budget without having the revenue to cover costs.
Moreover, the city's priorities are questionable. Consider that nearly one-quarter of Mesa's prospective deficit is for funding art and museums. However desirable, art is hardly a public safety or health issue.
Hundreds of privately funded organizations across the state-from the Phoenix Zoo to the Goldwater Institute-raise their budgets through ticket sales and donations. Certainly the Mesa Arts Center could raise its nearly $5 million budget from willing patrons.
Rather than correct its misdeeds, the city wants taxpayers to bail it out. If approved, a proposed referendum would raise sales taxes and initiate a new property tax. Failing that, the city may impose a "secondary property tax" that would not require voter approval.
Heaven knows Mesa's "Armageddon" is the direct result of poor city management. City managers have a responsibility to chart a better course.
-Policy Review: "I Hear America Singing: The Arts Will Flower without the NEA"
-RAND Corporation: "Gifts of the Muse: Reframing the Debate About the Benefits of the Arts"
- East Valley Tribune: "Mesa grapples with budget issues"