Back on July 19th, under the headline “Carefree launches campaign to market itself as own town”, an Arizona Republic article outlined the new partnership, of sorts, between the town of Carefree and the 1 year old Carefree Business Association (CBA).
Several points got my attention. From the 2010-2011 budget, the town paid the CBA $12,000 for ‘a marketing campaign’. In the recently approved budget for 2011-2012, that figure will rise to $72,000. Not a bad raise for a 1 year old, although they did ask for $140,000. The town eliminated $18,000 from the budget that would have gone to the Chamber of Commerce, an organization Carefree had supported, for years. Okay, try something new, I get it.
By the way, that $18,000 will instead go to staff salary increases.
What I really didn’t get were the comments by councilman Miller. He was quoted as saying, “that based on the success of that campaign, he supported the funding.” He went on to say “during that period, sales-tax revenue increased 3.8 percent in December; 2.6 percent in January; 3.8 percent in February, 6.1 percent in March; and 1.87 percent in April.” Really?
Mind you, we have no idea what he was comparing, do we? It could be a variation of Chicago math, where one interested party supplies both sets of numbers for comparison. Lately, it seems, there are politicians in our nation’s capital that use the same technique.
Here are the actual 2011 numbers compared to 2010: January increased 1.91%, February decreased 1.80%, March increased 3.77%, April decreased 3.22%, May decreased 1.84%, and June increased 1.28%.
The chart provided is a factual comparison of the actual sales tax revenue in 2011 relative to 2010. The figures come directly from State reports, and reflect the same reporting periods (months) for each year. In other words, it is an ‘apples to apples’ comparison.
On a Calendar Year basis (6 months through June) Carefree had a loss of 0.15% from 2010, but on a full Fiscal Year basis Carefree earned 0.41% or $11,025 more than the prior Fiscal Year; that is less than ½ of 1 percent.
Miller concluded his remarks by asking himself, “if we didn’t do this marketing, where would we be?” For the answer, consider the $12,000 paid to the CBA and the $11,000 increase in sales tax revenue over last fiscal year; Carefree would be 23,000 bucks ahead instead of 1,000 bucks in the hole.
A few other financial oddities surfaced. Can you understand the logic of spending $18,000 to $20,000 to construct a 24/7 self-service information lobby at town hall? Me either. And why would the new town budget project a 3% increase in Sales Tax revenue, when that revenue has dropped precipitously 3 years in a row? Both items would be more reasonable for Miller to question. The budget also reflects a 12% decrease in all other State/County revenue, yet some analysts suggest it is likely to be double that amount. Go figure.
Once, during a prior recession (mid to late 1980’s), I asked an old friend, who happened to be a well-placed Harvard MBA, why his economic outlook was so gloomy. He considered my inquiry for a few moments and then replied, “It is, what it is.” I told him education wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. In the end, numbers are what they are, not what someone wishes them to be.
While some of my comments may seem a bit tongue-in-cheek, the figures speak for themselves. One should give serious thought to the town’s relationship with the CBA. I’m not suggesting it is wrong, or otherwise inappropriate. I merely suggest that without appropriate metrics in place to monitor activities against actual results, no qualitative or quantitative judgment of success can be made, at least not any that would be believable.
John Traynor, Carefree