The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

April 23, 2013

Letter: Taxpayers need to know

Did you know that the city of Enid budget is $151,899,690 for fiscal years 2012-13? Most revenue comes from sales tax and utility services. If there are 45,000 people living in Enid, that is a cost of approximately $3,400 a person.

City hall lobbied hard for the $50 million new parks project. City Manager Eric Benson repeatedly talked about a 2008 survey that indicated citizens were solidly behind such a project. I had not heard of or received such a survey, and no one I know or asked had seen any survey, either.

I learned from the city attorney’s office through the Open Records law that 5,000 surveys were mailed out by a company called Howell & Vancuren that was hired by the city of Enid. Of the 5,000, only 435 were returned by citizens for evaluation. The city of Enid paid $108,481.30 to Howell & Vancuren to categorize the 435 responses. That is not counting the costs for news ads, mailouts and the election itself.

How can anyone believe that 435 people would be a good cross-section of the wants and needs for a city of more than 45,000?

Maybe city hall wanted to siphon off some of that $50 million to pay for incentives for a hotel or for cost overruns on the Renaissance project. There was, indeed, $15 million, a full 30 percent of the $50 million that city hall could spend as it deemed best. Theoretically, it would have gone for the parks, but everyone in Enid knows that funds don’t always flow on a direct path.

Voters spoke with a “no” vote. I’ll bet Mr. Benson had no idea that anyone would research the facts about the survey.

I guess it’s not that hard to spend $152 million after all.

Ken Fischer

Enid

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