In February, the City Manager proposed a budget that does not contain adequate funding for our street and sidewalk work. Because voters rejected the streets and parks bond issues in April, we need to return to good and responsible management of our city. Residents agree we want to fix and maintain our streets, sidewalks and parks. The election was about how, not whether we pay for these things, and I asked the City Manager to find $1 million in his budget to fund capital improvement for streets and sidewalks, and cut discretionary spending and fat in the budget.
I have carefully read the packet containing the City Manager’s proposed changes for the Draft FY2016 Budget, and I cannot support the City Manager’s proposed changes. One of the most striking features of the City Manager’s proposed budget changes is that the City Manager, rather than proposing cuts to discretionary spending, is proposing, in the words of our Mayor “ cuts to programs and services that our community needs and deserves”:
•Eliminating the Summer Camp Program for our children;
•Closing Centennial Commons for seven additional days;
•Eliminating all public swim hours at the natatorium, and reducing the hours at the Heman Park Pool.
By contrast, Mr. Walker’s budget for the City Manager’s Office was untouched, though it was increased by $168,300 (25%) over last year – and an increase of almost $340,000 over 4 years. He, also, proposes cuts to the budgets of the Police and Fire Departments. Astonishingly, not one new street or sidewalk improvement project was added. So, City Manager Walker is proposing that the Council vote to cut your services, cut nothing from the City Managers Office or the Legislative (Council) budgets, and neglect our needed street and sidewalk work.
This budget causes so much pain to our citizens, and no pain to the people sitting around this table. The city manager has taken nothing from his budget, and nothing from the legislative budget. What message are we trying to send our citizens? The people to whom I spoke told me it feels like we are trying to settle a score for rejecting the bond issues. I am willing to make some cuts in the budget to reallocate money for street and sidewalk work, but the cuts need to start with the people around this table.
•To take away summer camp for our children, but fund Fair U City is unconscionable;
•To take away summer camp for our children, but fund the Chamber of Commerce is unconscionable;
•To take away summer camp for our children, but spend $12,000 on Council travel is unconscionable;
•To take away summer camp for our children, but send the City Clerk to Tan-tar-a one more time is unconscionable;
•To take away summer camp for our children, but to increase the City Manager’s budget by over $168,000 in one year
If necessary, AND it is necessary to find the money to fix our streets and sidewalks, there are plenty of places we can cut without penalizing our residents. All you have to do is look at the two new funds Mr. Walker established for the sales taxes collected for Capital Improvement and Parks and Stormwater. First he has transferred some expenses, which are clearly not capital – roughly $500K — to those funds. It was never the Council policy that these funds be used for maintenance. That policy is still summarized in our budget books under Revenue Sources - Capital Improvement Sales Tax. But if you look at the table on page 5 of the packet, you will note that there is a surplus of over $400K in revenue for Capital Improvement collected from this sales tax. Why not use that money for streets and sidewalks and cut no services? – why not use the money “questionably” designated as Capital (personnel, contractual, commodities, etc.), for real capital improvement, not maintenance?
Will we need additional money for contingencies? Perhaps, but we commonly find the money…
•We didn’t budget for a change in the logo (signs. Letterheads, clothing, vehicles, etc.,) yet we had the money;
•We didn’t budget for a city-wide educational campaign on the bond issues, yet we had the money
•And we didn’t budget for an electrical upgrade in Heman Park, yet we had the money!
But we don’t have the money for our streets and sidewalks???
This budget does not reflect the priorities of this community… nor does it reflect the priorities this Council so recently expressed about our streets and sidewalks.
I will not support the City Manager’s proposed changes. This budget causes so much pain to our citizens, and no pain to the people sitting around this table. In her recent letter to the Editor, Mayor Welsch wrote:
“What we are seeing is the tea party approach to budgeting: vote against any taxes, even for admittedly needed work for streets and to make our facilities ADA-compliant, and then try to gut the budget of programs and services that our community needs and deserves.”
If you approve Mr. Walker’s changes, you are gutting the budget of programs and services that our community needs and deserves. I respectfully ask that my colleagues send Mr. Walker back to the drawing board to find an additional $500K for street and sidewalk work to add to the street and sidewalk projects already proposed for the Capital Improvement Plan. You do not have to cut services… just use the money Mr. Walker is proposing as a surplus – and let’s make a few “minor sacrifices” in funding our pet projects to provide the proper funding to run this City in line with the priorities of the community.