The golden means
The city’s blue-ribbon Fiscal Sustainability Committee has finally released its long-range financial forecast for the Island.
I have to apologize that I didn’t have the stamina to read the 71-page report when I finally got it at 6:30 last night (just as the school district’s discussion about turning the whole danged district charter got started). But I did catch City Treasurer and committee chief Kevin Kennedy’s presentation at the council meeting Tuesday.
Apparently, we are spending more money than we have on things like libraries, parks and police (and their pensions). If we keep doing this, we will have a really, really big budget deficit. We have two options for dealing with this problem, to wit:
1. Spend less.
2. Bring in more money.
“The choices we have are cut, or raise revenues. Those are our only two choices, really,” Council member Frank Matarrese said.
On the “spend less” front, Kennedy said that even if we shut our libraries, left our parks to weed & seed and canned our entire city administration, we still wouldn’t be able to save ourselves from budget deficits, based on current assumptions.
As far as bringing in more money, we’d need a parcel tax of $1,338 per – or 62 big-box stores – to keep ourselves afloat with current service levels.
From what I could gather from the presentation, pensions and benefits are a big chunk of the city’s growing costs. Meanwhile, we are not even coming close to making our city-set reserve requirements or properly maintaining our city-owned vehicles, equipment, streets or sewer.
Somehow, Kennedy said, we need to come up with the money up front to fill our reserve, maintain our city stuff and prepay our pension and benefit obligations, in order to save money in the future. (Or the not-so-distant future: Apparently, nearly half the city’s employees are eligible to retire sometime in the next five years.) And we can’t really rely on and upward swing in the economy to save us, because it won’t make that big of a difference in our situation.
The committee will host a series of public forums on their report, dates to come. And the council is due to consider a budget for the coming year, later this month.