January 28, 2009

City eyes possibility of major budget cuts

The city’s Board of Finance is preparing for a worst case budget scenario that would slice spending in many departments by as much as 10 percent.
“The economic times are horrible,” said John Smith, a veteran finance commissioner, and the state “doesn’t have a clue” how it’s going to deal with a multi-billion dollar deficit that will surely have a major impact on aid to municipalities.
To keep property taxes from rising at a time when revenues are going down, “we’re going to hav to hurt things bad” in terms of government services, said Janet Moylan, another finance board member.
The financial oversight panel told city department heads this week they want to see scenarios for what happens if they slice spending by 5 percent or by 10 percent in the budget they’re preparing during the next few months.
Mayor Art Ward has already got the city working on a budget that holds spending growth to less than 2 percent, with the aim of preventing any tax hike for the coming year.
But finance board members said that might not be enough given the hard times, particularly since holding taxes in check without cutting into existing programs would likely force potentially damaging reductions in education.
School Superintendent Philip Streifer has prepared a budget that includes three scenarios to cope with sinking aid from the state. They’re supposed to be presented to the Board of Education next week, city officials said.
Smith said he is disturbed that he keeps hearing that the education budget is what’s “going to make or break us” on the overall city spending plan. He said he wants to have more options than simply slicing into schools.
Moylan said the city is facing its “most difficult budget” in at least two decades. She said that finance overseers need to meet and talk through scenarios to try to reach some sort of consensus about how to approach it.
Smith said he wants to know what would happen if the city was told, for example, to lay off 10 people.
Ron Messier, another longtime finance board member, said he would like to see budget planning sessions soon, too.
He said that if the panel waits until March and April, “things go past very fast” and it gets harder to deal with options that need to be explored carefully.
Ward said he’s determined to make sure that cuts don’t affect public safety, but other than that he’s willing to explore any options.
The mayor said that when he asked departments to prepare budgets, he told them to hold increases to less than 2 percent. He said he’s now eyeing increases closer to zero.
The finance board adopts a budget at the end of April. It is given final approval in mid-May at a joint session of finance commissioners and city councilors.

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Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do what all the companies in the world are doing, layoff some workers. Some of them serve no purpose or do very little for what they're paid.

Anonymous said...

How about the schools getting rid of some high admin positions!

Anonymous said...

Has Ward considered asking for some outside input as Stortz suggested in a recent letter?

Anonymous said...

The schools should be getting down to bare bones.

Ed'er said...

1:29............NO NOT THE SCHOOLS!!!!! Thats the one thing you leave alone....Or even add more to the budget.. This is our future people..

Anonymous said...

Lets approach the rich families in town like the Barnes family and ask them to bail us out. In return they'll get to sit on a board that will review the city's finances. Oh wait, we already did that during the last Depression.

Anonymous said...

"Our future" will make do with less technology and more learning, more students to a classroom, fewer administrators, and teachers who are in the real world instead of having guaranteed raises independent of job performance. "Our future" will not be hurt by it.

Anonymous said...

If they cut the budget, what will they be doing wit the workers who have nothing to do?

Anonymous said...

BOE Administrators & Principals need to get rid of their "perks" and cut some of the fat from the budget. They get magazine subscriptions, paid mileage to go to BOE meetings, $$ for hospitality, etc... how about cutting that waste.

Anonymous said...

You pay to play = college.

Anonymous said...

Steve,
In this article and GASB 45 you use the wrong effect/affect. We wouldn't want the new publisher to get upset.

Ward said he’s determined to make sure that cuts don’t effect public safety, but other than that he’s willing to explore any options.

Steve Collins said...

Thanks, 5:04, I fixed them. That's one thing I get wrong all too often. Now, thanks to you, I'm going to pause and think every time I have to write one of the words. I guess that's good.

Anonymous said...

Ward wants to cut 10% out of the next budget. That comes to about 15 million dollars.

How does that relate to the current budget: won't that have a defecit?

What is Ward not telling us?

Odin said...

I respect the work of the Finance Board (they have a tough job), but their job is to approve a budget, not draft it. That's the Mayor's responsibility. Where does Glenn Klocko get off telling the department heads to prepare budgets with 5% and 10% cuts? That's for the Mayor to tell them, not Glenn Klocko.

Anonymous said...

Odin, haven't realized that Kloko is a front man for Ward and gets to play City manager without the blame.

Anonymous said...

Wake up Odin, this is why Art Ward was the hands-down favoritie candidate for the dept heads. They get to call the shots and there is no oversight. Glenn Klocko is not good for Bristol.

Anonymous said...

Wards full of it! Now he is playing polictics. Why did he just give his Union Boy's a big raise of two contracts? That was the FIRST place he should have started. But he couldn't because they got him elected.

Anonymous said...

I understand some of the Dept. Heads have been telling Ward they are over staffed and should lay off people. Ward however, has told them no, find other way's to cut there budget!

Way to go Ward! Moving Bristol Back-Ward!

Anonymous said...

Maybe Stortz wasn't so bad after all.

He was the last mayor to lay people off.

Ward won't, neither will bang bang Johnson lay people off.

Anonymous said...

There are alternatives to layoffs like freezing increases. Is that even being considered?

Anonymous said...

Stortz go away!! Worst mayor Bristol has had

Odin said...

"There are alternatives to layoffs like freezing increases. Is that even being considered?"

Management can't freeze contractual pay increases, but they can lay people off. It's up to the union leadership to come back to the table and say, "We're willing to give back a percentage of our last raise if it will save jobs." Will the union leadership do that? Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

If lay offs are such a savings, why did the police department just hire 7 new employees? It certainly was not through retirements. This department has more employees than ever before, so much so that I see two officers in most cars. Why now? The union surely didn'y hire them and has no say at all in that matter. Why would we ask unions to give up benefits to new hirerees they never even had a say in hiring. Maybe we ask for give backs from our police chief who asked for the new employees and from the people who said ok to hiring them in these bad economic times. Here's a start to your lay offs.

Anonymous said...

Since Personnel costs are at least 50% of the budget, a total 10% cut overall would have to equate to a 20% cut in everything else.
Ain't gonna happen!

A people intensive department such as Tax Collector or City Clerk has very little to cut from. What are they going to do?

Answer is: BOF will reccomend staff cuts and Ward will cop out and say " We can't interfere with the BOF".

Good move Artie!

Odin said...

"Answer is: BOF will reccomend staff cuts and Ward will cop out and say: We can't interfere with the BOF".

As I understand it, the budget approval process works like this: the Mayor submits his proposed budget to the BOF for its approval. The BOF makes whatever changes they want and approves it. The approved budget goes to the "Joint Board" (which is the BOF and the City Council sitting together) for adoption. Everyone has very clear roles to play. Last year Ward muddied the waters by making changes to his own budget after it had been submitted to the BOF, throwing everything into confusion. He should submit a budget that he feels is best for Bristol and defend it to the max, and let the BOF do what they will. He's trying to have it both ways. The buck stops here, Art.

Anonymous said...

Hall's Law:
The means justify the ends. The approach to a problem is more important than the solution.