Wednesday, April 16, 2008

City Budget Public Hearing

I went to the City Budget hearing last night and was posting messages to Twitter, although I forgot to update the website to include the twitter posts. I think they came through on though. It was an active session of many groups asking for the city to not cut their budgets, requesting increases in their budgets, or requesting ANY budget (tree plantings).

Here are my takeaways-
- there are a lot of people/groups that want money from the city
- if you are having trouble, ask the city which groups can help, there were tons of groups that I didn't even know existed. Did you know that there is an Area Dispute Resolution assistance group? They help mediate differences... They had the smallest request of the evening - instead of $2000, they wanted $2200 (they said + 10%, so that's the math I did).
- The volunteer firefighters had requested an equipment budget of 20k, but are proposed to only get 10k, that's 6k less than the organization to help seniors who are proposed to get 16k. Granted, there is an entire other budget for paid firefighters, but still, volunteers need equipment and it wears out.
- The best public speakers of the night were from the Boys & Girls Club and Head Start. The Cal Ripken rep was also well spoken, but I consider him more of a professional public speaker/fundraiser.

The biggest takeaway is this - in harder economic times, city groups are going to be asked to do more. This is when people have the biggest issues to cope with, creating the more cases for these groups to address. Unfortunately, being economic, this is also the time when the city has the fewest dollars to dole out.

What do you know - my comment after the last reassessment about why they shouldn't lower the tax rate so far seems to start making sense. Could the city have actually saved that money though? Probably not. So as it is, the city managers budget, which is actually lower than last year, probably isn't a bad starting place. I think the city can be more efficient, and do more with less. What I mean is that they could get their raises, and expend less on day-to-day activities by increasing productivity. I really believe that if the divisions would stop making decisions in a vacuum, and start looking at the cities productivity, there are a lot of little drops in the bucket that when added up easily make it to a level that supports raises, retirement benefits, etc.

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