Whiskey Creek overflowed Taylor Avenue January 18, 2017.
A section of Sunset Loop road is like a trampoline … spongy and bouncy! Cause may be a water line that is seeping, or it might be simply something associated with the rainfall experienced in the last two days. Asphalt is relatively thin, so it also might be caused by a failure of the road base structure.
City of Bainbridge Island staff are recommending a 28.2% SSWM fee increase in the City’s 2017-2018 proposed biennial budget.
Councilman Roger Townsend, the Council’s ex-officio to the Utility Advisory Committee, supported the increase at Friday’s Council retreat.
Roger Townsend’s recommendation to the Council was not backed up by substantive analysis or discussion. He has shown in City Council and committee meetings he is not a financial detail individual, and his recommendation appears to be based on some City staff questionable and flawed projections and the woefully unengaged Utility Advisory Committee (UAC) discussion on the SSWM budget at their 28 September meeting. UAC Chairman Andy Maron has promoted a SSWM fee increase for more than a year, and he considers financial details and SSWM utility program evaluations as something the UAC should not be doing because the City Council has not asked the committee to do so. He also made it abundantly clear the Utility Advisory Committee does not exist to represent City utility ratepayer’s interests, and that unfortunately is true. Nobody represents utility ratepayer interests in this City government.
SSWM fees could remain where they are or even decreased if this City operated a financially efficient stormwater utility that didn’t add a host of discretionary and science data gathering programs. Higher than required stormwater utility fees have existed for years, and that’s now proposed to get even worse.
The City is also using the SSWM utility to augment the general fund by taking utility ratepayers money and using it other than its Washington State legally intended purpose of flood control and storm drains for the municipally owned and operated stormwater system.
Staffing Levels: The City’s proposed Cost Allocation Plan has 10.42 Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) paid from the SSWM Fund.
Forty-six individual city employees will have all or some of their salary paid by the SSWM Utility.
The field workers (storm drain maintenance, street sweeping, ditching, spoils hauling, culvert maintenance, etc) are budgeted at 3.92 FTE, including field supervision. The City’s pollution discharge permit (NPDES-II) has 1 FTE Engineer and a .7 SSWM technician budgeted, but this is a mature program running on almost automatic, and that adds up to more personnel hours than needed.
A total of 5.62 FTE are doing SSWM utility field type work and managing the stormwater (NPDES-II) permit requirements, including the required part of water quality monitoring.
City now contracts out almost all stormwater utility construction work, and this takes some engineering and contract time … add .5 FTE for engineering and .5 for contract/invoice work.
It should take 6.62 FTE to do the SSWM utility and permit work (and that’s probably liberal on FTE’s labor hours).
The remaining 4.5 FTE are a product of SSWM utility cost overhead allocation. That is about 2.5 FTE higher than a financially efficiently run utility should require, and with the average personnel cost projected at $131,400 per employee, the excessive personnel cost allocation is in the range of $325,000 a year.
Salary and benefits for this supposedly small storm drain utility are $2,462,060 in this biennial budget. That’s $4,944 a city workday in city personnel costs alone, not counting the consultants they hire for field work and data keeping.
Rent: The City proposes charging the SSWM utility $290,008 “rent” for the SSWM utility cost allocated employees using City Hall. This money simply transfers from the SSWM Fund to the City’s General Fund.
Local utility tax: It’s against state law for COBI to directly transfer money from a utility fund (fee collected for a specific purpose) to the General Fund. One way to circumvent that prohibition is to call it a tax and then there is no limit. Cities do not have to charge local utility taxes, but many do just because they can, or they collect their overhead costs if they do not have a cost allocation system. COBI currently charges a 6% local utility tax. That’s $299,400 SSWM utility ratepayers would contribute to the General Fund from stormwater fees in the proposed biennial budget. The utility doesn’t benefit from this tax … it’s simply money transferred so the City Council can spend it on whatever they decide to spend it on.
Repairs and other improvements: For the last five years, the SSWM utility has been averaging $207,000 a year in “repairs and other improvements.” The proposed biennial budget, the City proposes $1.03 million … no explanation for the $616,000 increase. Public Works Director Barry Loveless told the UAC the increase was simply an accounting shift moving the utility annual programs from the capital budget to the operational budget. But there appears to be a shift to contracting out virtually all small jobs that, let’s say, require a backhoe, such as installing a non-complicated drain culvert.
Two significant new programs need mention in an balanced discussion on SSWM rates.
First is an Ecology requirement to have low impact development rules in place by 1 January 2017. Those new rules are a paradigm shift in land development, and after ignoring the deadline for almost three years (probably because the City was up to its ears in the Comprehensive Plan rewrite), the City has hired consultants to draft the Municipal Code changes and write new development regulations. How low impact development is going to be paid for is not on the City Council’s agenda. It’s a stormwater related issue, but it’s a land development and monitoring cost that has little or nothing to do with the City’s stormwater infrastructure. The choices are to increase permit and development fees, pay from the General Fund, pay from Stormwater utility fees, perhaps obtain an Ecology grant at least to get started, or some combination of these revenue sources.
Second is a deep culvert assessment that provides convincing evidence that at least the McDonald Creek culvert under Eagle Harbor Drive needs repair or replacement. That single culvert project is projected to cost more than $1 million.
And finally, it should not be lost on the City Council that a previous Council decided to classify City streets and roads as part of the City’s stormwater sewage system so the City could cease paying stormwater impervious surface charges for City roads. That decision to reclassify streets and roads removed a $900,000+ a year transfer from the General Fund to the SSWM Fund, although the City arbitrarily decided to pay only 30% of that impervious surface fee (about $260,000 a year).
So now, not only does the General Fund not transfer funds to the SSWM Fund, the SSWM Fund moves money to the General Fund through cost allocations, employee space rental charges, and utility taxes. The SSWM Fund annually pays a significant portion of their non-capital expenditures to the City’s General Fund.
There is no more regressive collection of citizen money than this City’s SSWM fee. The utility also pays for a number of discretionary programs that do nothing meaningful for the utility, but this City has no program review for program effectiveness, and the City Council is not about to upset the status quo because program evaluations might lead to personnel changes and reduce revenues to the General Fund.
The SSWM utility remains a relatively muddled mess of various costs and charges and programs, and it’s about to get a large revenue boost from a City Council that simply doesn’t comprehend the issues because they hear only from a City staff that wants to protect their General Fund revenue more than they want to put utility customers first and run a cost effective stormwater utility.
In July, the City Council had the City’s proposed cost allocation budget pitched to them by the City’s cost allocation financial staff manager.
As can be now be expected from this municipal administration, the City Council was NOT provided a copy of the actual cost allocation program that City taxpayers paid a consultant to draft. That maybe makes sense because it is long and so complicated that nobody on this City Council would understand it … just like the Council that initially received the consultant’s work. Except that original Council actually admitted they didn’t understand what the consultant had presented.
The City Council also was NOT provided a copy of the personnel listing or time allocations that are being charged into the cost allocation program. That’s readable and understandable with even a minor amount of brain capacity.
Instead, the City financial staffer provided a 30’ish page condensed version of what cost allocation is (pretty much a repeat from past years), and a couple of cherry picked and carefully worded examples that makes the uninformed think the City’s cost allocation program is well thought out and in the public interest.
The newbies on the Council were apparently impressed, especially Councilman Kol Medina. He praised the presentation.
Kol Medina has the potential to learn some of the cost allocation flaws as his Council years pass.
To those who understand cost allocation, it was yet another staff budget presentation and Council action that will continue to financially fleece both the sewer and SSWM utility ratepayers.
Additionally, the City Council never asked why the Streets fund is cost allocated … the result of that is the City never seems to have enough money for road work because too much of the street fund money that should be spent on capital street improvements is instead being used to pay for City staff … as of this year, a portion of 46 City employees get some of their salary and benefits payed from the Streets fund.
In the big picture, the City Manager has made it perfectly clear that both protecting and diversifying the City’s General Fund revenue streams trumps virtually all funding decisions at City Hall. This City Council is fully supportive of that management philosophy. And that’s not all bad … but in financially really good times, which we are currently experiencing, this City doesn’t have to have two utilities and the street fund contributing an undue amount of money to the general fund in rather arbitrary salary, benefits and rents.
Sewer utility ratepayers will continue to pay some 50+ city employees a portion of their salary and benefits and charge them rent for using City Hall real estate.
SSWM utility ratepayers will continue to also pay 50+ city employees some portion of their salary and benefits and charge them rent for using City Hall real estate.
This is simply excessive.
Only the COBI water utility has reasonable cost allocation, and that came about by ratepayer litigation and the City reduced that utility’s cost allocation by more than half. It appears the only way this is ever going to be fixed is by ratepayer litigation, and that is very expensive.
The one half decent decision the City Council made related to cost allocations was to change the City’s cost allocation relatively expensive (and not required by Ecology) Water Quality and Flow Monitoring program from the SSWM Fund to a 50%-50% share between SSWM and the General Fund.
The City’s continuous (24/7/365) water flow monitoring program is still this City’s most useless program since the years of data hasn’t been used for any useful purpose (it is filed with consultant help in the City’s water library), but this City Manager and City staff have no program reviews to evaluate existing programs and evaluate their effectiveness or lack there-of.
They did shifted the Groundwater Monitoring program from COBI Water Utility ratepayers to the general fund. That has been a no brainer for years because the groundwater monitoring program is of benefit to all island residents not just the 25% or so who pay for City water. It’s not a lot of money, but Sarah Blossom gets a shout out for FINALLY getting that small cost but obvious cost allocation problem brought to a Council vote. About six years late … thank you COBI water ratepayers for funding this for many years.
In summary, the Council was yet again bamboozled by City staff on the big cost allocation issues, but they at least chipped away at a couple of small issues. That’s slightly better than nothing.
lf I were grading the City Council on cost allocation fixes (and I am), I would give them a 1.5 of 10.
The City’s staff is now working on the City’s 2017-2018 City budget that will be made public (probably) at the 27 September City Council business meeting. The biennial budget lays out where some million$ of taxpayer and ratepayer’s dollar$ and some grant funding are going to be spent in the following two years.
The City Council will raise property taxes the maximum extent allowed by state law … that’s a virtual given.
New hires will be proposed … and at an average cost of over $125,000 per city employee, that’s no small dollar matter since any new personnel expenditures will most likely continue on for many years. But, the population is increasing and that means a larger municipal government.
But before the dividing up of the dollars into priorities and programs, the City Council has their once every two year opportunity to “fix” the two most unjust and broken programs in the current City budget.
This post will discuss the first: The Cost Allocation program.
The citizens and organizations getting financially screwed are primarily the COBI sewer ratepayers and storm and surface water (SSWM) ratepayers. That’s less than 25% of the island’s residents but includes most of the Island’s businesses.
In the simplest of terms, the City’s cost allocation program allocates financial charges for staffing overhead to the City’s General, Street, Water, Sewer, SSWM, Development, and Building Funds.
This post will focus on just three utility funds (Water, Sewer, SSWM) since those funds are enterprise funds where the City runs a monopoly business and ratepayers pay a utility fee for services provided.
Cost allocation includes salaries, benefits (an additional roughly 40% on top of salary expense) and “rent” for the allocated employees use of City Hall space. “Rent” includes a collection of charges, some logical and others, such as depreciation costs for City Hall and the farmer’s market area and even the land on which it is built, seemingly illogical. And not only do the lucky utility ratepayers pay off the City Hall debt with their property taxes, they get an additional whammy by having bond interest payments and depreciation charges included in their utility rates.
Ratepayers aren’t complaining.
It is probably because citizens don’t have the time to read and understand the City’s cost allocation system, and/or they believe the City staff and City Council are looking out for them as utility ratepayers, which is a fundamental role of a City Council.
Being unable to decipher the cost allocation system is the norm.
Having City Council look after the interests of utility ratepayers is only a theory … it has happened only once in the past decade when Steve Bonkowski and three other members of a past City Council took over a meeting agenda item and reduced the water rates a second time over the objections of the City Manager and staff.
Overhead charges for City utilities are clearly appropriate, but what is broken in this City, and in many other Washington State cities, is that with the 1% plus new construction limitation on annual tax increases, governments have intentionally and creatively increased general government revenue by cost allocating an increasing percentage of utility fees using cost allocation methodology and increasing local utility taxes.
It requires considerable accounting skills to understand cost allocation … something the City Council members simply lack because there are no trained accountants on the City Council. Aside from their lack of accounting skills, it appears the Council has neither the time nor interest to fully understand COBI’s cost allocation system.
It only took me some four years and maybe 20 public record requests to figure out how the financial staff performs their calculations … and in my opinion, no COBI City Council member has ever come even close to fully understanding the cost allocation process.
So, here are some basics of how the City set up a cost allocation system.
When Washington State voters approved an initiative to limit the growth of property taxes some 16 years ago, the then Bainbridge Island Mayor announced utility rates would be increased by 21% to help make up for the expected general fund revenue slowdown.
That was only the start of a cost shift of paying for general government to city utility ratepayers.
A utility ratepayer’s lawsuit in 2009 resulted in an outsourcing study of the City’s water utility. The City was charging 9.6 FTE (full time equivalent) employees to the water utility when the study started. That included both direct labor and overhead.
A consultant hired to determine the efficient personnel allocation told the City staff the water utility could be properly operated and managed with 3.9 FTE.
Both the City Manager and Deputy Manager were tight jawed with that consultant recommendation, but City staff reluctantly settled on 4.2 FTE to fully operate and manage the water utility.
The FTE reductions were 1 FTE from direct labor and 4.4 FTE from bloated cost allocations.
City water rates were subsequently reduced by more than 60% in two separate rate reduction actions, the last one during a testy City Council meeting that indirectly led to yet another expensive public records lawsuit.
The major lesson from the original ratepayer lawsuit was that the City’s cost allocation system for the water utility was grossly overcharging City staff hours to the water utility.
What previous City Councils have fail to recognize and fix is the very same cost allocation system also applies to both the sewer and the SSWM utilities, and they too have excessive FTE’s being paid by utility ratepayers.
The sewer utility is charged for a portion of 52 individual City employees work hours, as well as City Hall rent. That’s 69% of all City employees (less City Council, Police and Municipal Court).
Those 52 employees hour allocations add up to 9.5 FTE.
Three city employees (3 FTE) run the City’s Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP), and about 1.2 FTE are used for various routine electrical and mechanical field work. The City contracts out all significant sewer system design and repair efforts.
The sewer utility FTE overhead is greater than 100%.
The City could have done the same type of efficiency study when they contracted for the new City sewer plan. The same financial sub-consultant was hired that did the water utility efficiency study, but neither City staff or City Council included that common sense element in the sewer plan. I’m quite certain that exclusion wasn’t an oversight. It was a deliberate decision intended to maintain the existing sewer utility money flow into paying for more FTE’s than necessary at City Hall.
That’s the primary reason for this sewer rate comparison chart in the City’s new sewer plan:
When City Council members say the sewer rates are high because the City just refurbished the WWTP and that needs to be paid for, that was partially true. Of course, that capital project was originally costed at an estimated $4.3 million, and ran unchecked by the City Council until it totaled some $15.8 million, but the real reason for Bainbridge finishing at the top of this sewer costs chart is the City’s cost allocation system.
The SSWM utility has the same cost allocation bloat disease. It’s not the only bloat disease affecting the SSWM utility, but that’s a future post subject.
The SSWM utility has 56 individual City employees being cost allocated to that utility.
Those 56 employees hour allocations add up to 9.41 FTE.
Direct labor for the non-bloated essentials required for the SSWM utility to meet Ecology’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination Permit (NPDES-II) requirements about 3.0 FTE field workers and 1.0 FTE NPDES-II Permit Manager.
So yet another City utility with a staff cost allocated overhead in excess of 100%.
City staff can write a convincing document (there is a draft for City Council review on the City Council’s agenda as I write this), and the Council is scheduled to discuss it at the 7 June 2016 City Council work session.
The problem is the City Council doesn’t go into the details, and all the big problems with cost allocation are buried deep in the financial minutia.
So here are three big picture questions the City Council should be asking.
• What are the direct labor and indirect labor charges for the water, sewer, and SSWM utilities?
The draft cost allocation plan doesn’t go there.
Cost allocated overhead is going to be significantly higher in the sewer and SSWM utilities. That’s because the water utility has been subjected to an outsourcing study and unjustified overhead was sharply reduced. Similar but not as dramatic results would happen to both sewer and SSWM if the Council had the motivation to make the necessary and logical changes to cost allocations. City utility rates could be fair and reasonable like the State Supreme court says they should be.
• What is included as city hall “rent” charges?
The draft cost allocation plan doesn’t go there.
Council might be interested in why interest payments on City Hall and City Hall land are being allocated to utility ratepayers when the bond is being paid by voted taxes and therefore being paid by all Bainbridge Island citizens, but sewer and/or water utility ratepayers are incrementally paying twice or three times. And why the City staff charges depreciation for City Hall and playhouse land when (1) the land is appreciating in value, and (2) the collected depreciation is not going into a fund to replace city hall someday … it just goes to the general fund to be used in whatever manner general funds can be used for, which is just about everything that’s legal for a City to spend money on.
• Council should ask City staff what a fair utility overhead cost allocation (percentage) overhead should be.
For example, the City of San Jose’s City Council set a percentage (11%) allowable overhead to their water utility and directed the City to operate within that boundary, and then the City Council hired an independent auditor reporting to them, not City staff, to validate the City was staying within that overhead charge boundary. That apparently has worked very well.
COBI would need a significantly larger percentage overhead than 11%, but sewer and SSWM are in excess of 100% overhead now, and a set percentage could be an approach to getting the City staff’s objective to shifting general government costs to utility ratepayers throttled back.
Chances of this happening?
I’m guessing pretty close to zero because nobody on this Council seriously wants to question City staff, and there is no noticeable appetite to make changes that could impact the general fund’s revenue flow.
Bainbridge Island’s Municipal Code 3.88 and fee schedule impose a 6% of gross revenue tax on electrical service providers.
So I was puzzled why Puget Sound Energy bills 6.370% for “Effect of Bainbridge Island City Tax.”
Obvious question that the City Finance Department could probably answer, right?
City Finance staff didn’t have a clue, and the City Manager pointed out that Public Record requests cannot ask city staff a question … public record requests can only request copies of records. That is true.
But since the question to the City wasn’t asked as a public records request, I surmised that response means a citizen cannot ask a reasonable question to City staff even though they supposedly work for us and we help pay their salary.
Since the billing comes from PSE, the question was posed to PSE customer service on their public website. They acknowledged receipt and stated a reply would be forthcoming. Didn’t happen.
Follow-up e-mail. No response. Another follow-up. No response.
Finally, after more than a month of follow-ups, finally an elementary and non-responsive answer simply saying PSE uses the tax rates published by the State Department of Revenue (DOR).
OK … question then posed to the Department of Revenue since they show a 6% City of Bainbridge Island tax on electrical service providers.
DOR was moderately helpful in stating that it’s complicated because gross revenue is an accounting calculation, and the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission, who regulate PSE rates, permits an administrative fee for PSE’s cost of collecting the tax.
Next inquiry sent to the Utilities and Transportation Commission to get their calculations. They confirmed what DOR had stated, but no specific details on the PSE billings.
Finally, after roughly four months of e-mails for an explanation, a PSE government affairs person at a local City meeting took on the question when I expressed my frustration with PSE’s lack of responses and a non-responsive generalization.
Bingo … go up the corporate ladder to get an unanswered question answered!
So here is the answer as to why Bainbridge Island electrical users are paying 6.370% City taxes when the city council has set a 6% rate in the municipal code as researched and posted by PSE:
First I would like to provide some framework for what is shown as the “Effect of Bainbridge Island City Tax” on your bill. The Bainbridge Island City Tax is a tax on PSE equal to 6.0% of PSE’s gross revenue within the City of Bainbridge Island. The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission allows PSE to increase the amount it charges customers within the City of Bainbridge Island to recover the cost of this tax. RCW 82.16.090 requires that PSE the rate, origin and approximate amount of each tax levied upon the revenue of the light and power business or gas distribution business and added as a component of the amount charged to the customer. PSE shows the effective rate of the Bainbridge Island City tax which is added as a component of the amount charged. Since the City Tax is added as a component of the amount charged it has the effect of increasing the gross revenue within the City of Bainbridge Island. PSE also pays a State Utility Tax and a State Filing Fee based on its gross revenue, which are also included in the amount charged and therefore both increase gross revenue even further. With each increase in gross revenue additional tax amounts become payable.
PSE reviews each city tax ordinance and based on the deductions from gross revenue allowed by the city PSE determines that appropriate rate to apply to the amount billed prior to the addition of the city tax so that the effect of increases in gross revenue due to taxes and the deductions from gross revenue allowed by the city are all taken into account. For example, with cities that have a 6.0% tax rate where the city allows deductions for state utility tax, the city tax and for uncollectible bills, PSE adds only 5.99% to the customer bill. For a city that allows no deductions from gross revenue at all, PSE adds 6.69% to the amount billed to account for the effect of taxes on the additional gross revenue. In the City of Bainbridge Island there are deductions for State Utility Tax and for uncollectible accounts, but no deduction for the Bainbridge Island City Tax itself. The easiest way to show this is by a simplified example:
Tariff Charges = $100.00
Effect of City Tax at 6.37% = $ 6.37
Total Billing = $106.37
Revenue Subject to City Tax = 102.50 ($106.37 – State Utility Tax) (State Utility Tax = $100 * 3.873% = $3.87)
Additional Revenue Subject to State taxes: $6.37
PSE Expenses due to City tax:
City Tax: Taxable Revenue of $102.50 X City Ordinance Rate of 6.00% = $6.15
Additional Taxes paid to the State:
Additional Taxable Revenue of $6.37 X State Utility Tax Rate of 3.873% = $0.25
Additional Taxable Revenue of $6.37 X State Filing Fee Rate of 0.2% = $0.01
Tax Related Amount Billed by PSE = $6.37
Tax Related Expenses Paid by PSE = $6.41
In this example PSE has expenses greater than the amount billed, but that is due to rounding and simplification of the example. The main purpose of the example is to show that PSE passes through the effect of, or lack of, deductions allowed by the City imposing the tax and that the State and City taxes both apply to each other and themselves.
OK … that’s why you are being taxed at 6.370% on your electrical bill.
And you also know that PSE is claiming they are losing money (accounting wise) by collecting a City of Bainbridge Island tax of 6% and charging customers 6.370%.
It takes an advanced degree in accounting to sort all this out.
And for an additional .370% of tax per month, four months of asking questions is about all the time I want to put into what I though would be a simple, understandable response.
It’s all appears legitimate and authorized by a complexity of laws and rules permitted by the State Utilities and Transportation Commission in tariff filings and rulings.
I have enough life experience to acquire the wisdom that virtually nothing in government and taxes is simple and understandable to the average public citizen. This is yet another example.
The City of Bainbridge Island (COBI) has a groundwater monitoring program. That program monitors some 45 public and private wells to assess the water supply (aquifers) lying beneath the island.
Aspect Consulting is the paid consultant to assist COBI in the groundwater monitoring effort.
It’s not a terribly expensive program, and it provides informative data that is useful to all island citizens.
So why is this program appearing on this money blog?
It appears here because the 75% of island citizens who are not connected to the COBI water utility are getting a civic gift from those ratepayers.
The City pays for this program from the Water Utility Fund.
Is that proper?
Every citizen and business benefits equally from this program.
The groundwater monitoring should be funded from the General Fund, not the COBI Water Fund.
But for years our professional City staff (Finance Department) has continued to rip off COBI water ratepayers by funding this program from approximately 25% of the island who are water utility ratepayers. Add to that we have a Utility Advisory Committee, and they have turned a blind eye on groundwater monitoring funding from the Water Fund … any not just once, but a number of times. Looking out for utility ratepayer interests? Not happening.
Why is the City funding the groundwater monitoring from the Water Fund? Because there are millions of excess dollars sitting idle in the Water Fund … collected over the years by inflated COBI water rates far in excess of either operational or capital improvement needs. Not polite to call it fleecing of COBI water ratepayers, but it was fleecing of COBI water ratepayers.
What is also amazing is that no COBI water ratepayer is complaining, and the Central Ward Council members, where most the COBI water ratepayers live and/or have businesses, continue to remain silent because they don’t pay attention to the City financials or even look at employee cost allocations. And rare is it that anybody watches and comments on City accounting, and if they do, it almost always falls on deaf ears.
So as a non-COBI ratepayer and well owner, thank you City water ratepayers for the many years of paying for Bainbridge’s groundwater monitoring program!
And thank you also for paying for the major portion of the USGS aquifer study!
That was about a half million dollar gift to the non-COBI water ratepayers who are connected to other water systems or have their own wells.
Like most old time cattle ranches, the City of Bainbridge Island has a brand with a logo. Since it is nearing the City’s 25th anniversary, the powers to be in City Hall decided the historic branding logo was in need of updating. The obvious choice to do that was a firm of pretty much locally unknowns from Greenville, S.C., who got a cross country flight and a couple of days to sightsee the island, test some local alcoholic beverages, and understand our unwavering dedication to trees.
They designed a logo featuring some axes.
Didn’t go over so well. With just about anybody.
City terminated that contract, paying $11,272.50, including $9,572.50 for the work done on the battle axes logo and $1,700 for airfare, accommodations, food ($432 … they ate well!), and a rental car.
Their invoice (City file number opens the invoice):
Arnett Muldro and Associates: 339452
After a number of meetings and reportedly hundreds of e-mails, City opted to hire a local designer, Kelly Hume Design, Inc.
Kelly came up with the idea of the island outline in a capital B.
Some on the City Council liked it, but mostly they were tired of talking about something as critical to the community as a logo. Some seemed pleased it had the general color of a still alive conifer needle. The B w/Island logo received the required 4 votes and the Council moved on to more important things, like the decision on the Suzuki property for affordable housing or to keep the mini forest intact and hand it over to the Metropolitan Park District so they could do something other than housing with the property.
Kelly finished the logo, and in addition the City got an envelope layout, letterhead layout, vehicle signage, and e-mail signature designs.
That effort added up to $12,372,50.
Total new branding logo cost to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of all-island City has been $23,655.00.
Not counting many hours of staff time.
Kelly Hume Invoices:
It’s your tax money at work … City Council is protecting and ensuring the taxpayers get good value for their dollars.
Next post: Thank you, City Water ratepayers for footing the bills for our all-island groundwater monitoring program!