Cottonwood City Council Election 2018: Michael Mathews

Michael Mathews

Michael Mathews

Question: Are city employee salaries too high? If yes, what do you base this position on and what comparisons have you made that support your opinion?

Some of them. Definitely yes. A lot of them at the bottom of the salary ranges are probably too low. 

When you only have so much money and you’re paying so many of them over $100,000 in salary and benefits, many approaching and exceeding $200,000, somebody is going to pay the price. There is just not enough room here to go into detail but the median wage for management occupations in the state of AZ is $85,000. It just so happens that the nationwide average salary for a city manager is $87,000 with only 10 percent of them making more than $160,000. Our city manager is above that. The salary of the governor of Arizona is $95,000. Let that sink in. Why do we not have graduated salary increases with a higher percentage for those at the bottom to middle and a smaller percentage to the highest earners? 

We can do better for our people. We need to make some reforms here and bring more balance to our employees' salary structure.

Question – The city has prepared a comprehensive analysis for providing water both inside and outside the city and found that costs are higher to provide water outside the city.  The city council voted to institute higher rates for customers outside the city limits based on this data.  Would you keep this differential rate structure?  Please explain your answer.

NO. Water rates should be equalized. Rate payers are already paying 4-5 times the rate for water than they did before the city took over 6 private water providers. It is not fair to charge those outside the city more than those who live inside. Many years ago I worked for one of the largest private water districts in the country. It encompassed 100 square miles and the only rate differential was the elevation water had to be pumped from the one source to the customer, at great expense for electricity and natural gas. Their geographic location, whether it be inside or outside a boundary or the distance from the source were not considered. This is not the situation in Cottonwood. Equalizing rates would go a long way to heal the divisiveness we have seen for those who are now considered by some to be “outsiders” in our greater community.

Question – Does the city have an unreasonable level of debt?  If so, what leads you to this conclusion and what comparisons have you made to support your position?

Any municipality must run on a certain level of indebtedness. Myself and some on council believe we have an unreasonable amount of debt.

The national median debt per capita is $1,525. Taking Cottonwood’s debt per Mr. Rodriguez’s statement of $69 million at a recent budget meeting, that comes to $5,847 per capita for Cottonwood residents based on a population of 11,800. That does not include the millions of unfunded pension liabilities we inherited.

A search of the city website does not reveal a published debt policy. A debt policy can be a powerful governmental tool but it must be employed judiciously. Effective debt management is critical to the overall financial management of a local government, but once established, few regularly evaluate their effectiveness.

You will find less spending discipline in debt financed programs because far more spending power is created up front through debt financing than a similar allocation of revenues for an operating budget.


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