What happened to that ‘free money’?

Published 9:17 pm Wednesday, May 25, 2011

To the editor:

I’d like to use a metaphor to explain why I am so upset with Suffolk officials.

Say a family of four with a combined income of $60,000 struggles to meet expenses and have some money left for leisure and savings. There never seems to be enough.

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A rich uncle realizes their predicament. He asks what the family pays for the mortgage, two cars and communications — Internet, telephones and television.

Those bills come to about $2,500 a month. The rich uncle says he will pay those bills for five years so the family can play and save for college. The family never sees the money. It is paid directly to the creditors. After five years, the bills will no longer be paid by the uncle, he tells them.

Whatever happens at the end of the five years depends on how well the family has used the “free money.”

As host of the regional landfill, Suffolk does not have to pay tipping fees until sometime in the near future. In this way, the city has saved more than $7 million a year.

Year after year when the city budget is approved, there is no mention of the “free money” for tipping fees. It’s just something the city doesn’t have to pay — yet.

At the end of the contract for free use of the landfill, the city will have to come up with enough money to manage the overall budget efficiently and to find a place for its trash and likely pay for its disposal. Will council members put the cost on us citizens, or will they tap into that pile of “free money?”

Officials here say the money is not real. It is just an expense they don’t pay. The question remains, though: What will the city do when that “not real” money dries up?

I hope this explains in easy terms how our city budgets have been balanced on the back of SPSA. Let’s give SPSA some credit and not bashing.

Andy Damiani