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The greatest show on Earth

Submitted by on 1, October 22, 2008 – 8:00 amNo Comment

So if you were trying to get, say, a politically unpalatable tax passed, and no one wanted to help, what would you do? How about scaring the crap out of the people most likely to vote?

Just in time for Election Day, the council decided to put on its own version of “Apocalypse Now” Tuesday night, offering an accounting of the drastic service cuts that could happen next year … if the city can’t somehow generate some additional revenue (P’hint, P’hint).

City Manager Debra Kurita offered a list of cuts that could be made to meet an anticipated $3 million to $5 million budget shortfall for next year, including cuts to police and fire service and, possibly, the closure of Mastick Senior Center – suggestions which drew an overflow crowd of firefighters, and also seniors who waited for more than two hours in what are some seriously uncomfortable seats for the opportunity to beg the council to keep Mastick open.

And how to save the senior center?

“I’m sure you’ve heard we have to make cuts. We’ll have to make less if Measure P passes,” Mayor Beverly Johnson, whose comments were echoed by other council members, told one speaker.

The city’s budget problems are serious and real. This year, it looks like we’re already $700,000 in the hole, and that’s not counting the $1.1 million the state Board of Equalization says we owe Livermore in mislaid sales taxes. Add declining sales tax revenues, declining property tax assessments and God knows what else, and you’ve got a whole lot of ugly, for several years to come.

Council member Marie Gilmore said those problems are not going to be fixed without finding more money, somewhere. But council members also offered other, less apocalyptic-sounding but longer-term solutions.

Council member Frank Matarrese has talked for the last few meetings about structural changes like “flattening” city departments, collapsing departments under fewer managers. Council member Doug deHaan, who called the proposed cuts “shock and awe,” said he wants an examination of all city staffing.

Tuesday’s discussion was info-only; city staff isn’t slated to give the council a list of mid-year cuts until February of 2009. A proposed budget for next year isn’t due until May.

Regardless of what happens, the council made it clear that the city’s budget problems will continue well past November 4. We’ll continue to fill you in even after the electoral politics pass.

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