9/9/2017: Start with facts on potential water company purchase
I want to thank the city of Peoria for giving residents an opportunity to offer suggestions through the online "budget challenge." The City Council may find a gem or two among the dozens or hundreds of ideas that come forward.
However, in at least one circumstance, the "budget challenge" offers Peorians a false choice. Peorians are asked to choose one of these options:
• Spend $1 million to study issues surrounding the buyout of the water company.
• Status quo: Do not pursue a study of the buyout of the water company at this time.
The numbers are flawed.
Why is the "budget challenge" offering a false choice? I hope this is an honest mistake, rather than using this inaccurate information to mislead citizens to make a preordained outcome.
The $1 million figure to conduct due diligence and do an appraisal of the water company is vastly inflated. The city has suggested due diligence could cost as little as $400,000. Creative financing that would relieve the city of some of the cost is being discussed. The CEO Council, which did an exhaustive study last year, has offered to raise money for due diligence and others have offered to contribute. The appraisal itself should cost a fraction of $1 million.
High legal costs, which happened previously, should not happen since the primary question — about the validity of the city’s repurchase option — was definitively settled by the court.
Like a bad computer program, it's garbage in, garbage out. The city administration should change this inaccurate number, which gives the public a false impression of its choices.
The League of Women Voters studied public ownership of the water system and concluded that among the important issues were local control, transparency and high rates. We recommend doing due diligence. Independently, the CEO Council came to the same conclusion.
Peorians deserve a fair examination of the potential benefits of a publicly owned water system. Our city could reap millions of dollars with a public water system, money that currently goes to an out-of-state corporation. The "budget challenge" should offer more realistic numbers so Peorians can make an informed, educated and accurate judgment.
Cheryl Budzinski is the chairwoman of the League of Women Voters of Greater Peoria Water Position Committee. She lives in Peoria.
Peoria Journal Star Sept 9, 2017
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