The city is barely into its new budget year, and already, we’re $700,000 in the hole. Apparently, things are even worse than city staff anticipated (and the surprise closure of major sales tax producer Good Chevrolet last week probably didn’t help).
To deal with the new budget hole, they’ll implement a hiring freeze, cut some overtime and sell off some of the city’s vehicles. And with no end to the economic suckage on the horizon and things like falling assessments looming, city leaders are already planning for another round of cuts to the tune of about 5 percent per department for 2009-10. Or maybe more. And that includes your police and fire, the folks who suck up two-thirds of the city’s general fund budget, by the way.
“There’s no way to avoid cuts to public safety if we need to reduce our budgets to live within our means,” City Manager Debra Kurita told the council late Tuesday night.
Council members took the opportunity of Kurita’s budget presentation to issue dire warnings about the cuts they’ll have to make for next year, which could come as soon as their next meeting, on October 21. Two weeks before an election that has a certain property transfer tax-increasing measure on the ballot …
“The depth of the cuts is going to depend on whether Measure P passes,” Council member Frank Matarrese said.
We understand that the budget issues the city is facing are very real. (We also happened to talk to the folks from the Realtors Association on Tuesday, who said their members feel it’s unfair to dump the city’s fiscal woes on 2 percent of the population.)
I guess this little bit of political theater, presented just shy of midnight during a meeting that was a marathon even by this council’s standards (we’re tapping this out at 1:45 a.m. and the Towne Centre appeal is still going strong), is just making us cranky. And it’s all about the presentation, people!
“We’re trying to inform the public that there are very difficult cuts we’ll be making. We hope you’ll be there at the next council meeting,” Mayor Beverly Johnson said to the 30 or so sleepy people still here, sometime past midnight today.
Good thing for Johnson that Journal columnist Eve Pearlman wrote this eloquent column on the budget cuts to come. You can read it during normal waking hours.