We read and hear where Bristol, and other municipalities, continue to experience difficult financial times. And as I have said before, the worst is yet to come. Bristol, like other cities has to make cuts and raise taxes, to be able to balance the budget and still provide services. In reality, if the problem was addressed at the outset, things would not be this dire.
Following my last letter commenting on the fiscal situation, which included some suggestions on cost cutting and revenue enhancement, I received many additional ideas from city employees and non-city employees alike. The people are interested, and have some interesting ideas and observations. Some, but not all, are included in this letter.
But the key concept is that Bristolites, if encouraged and taken seriously, are willing to help. And City employees, considered by some to be part of the problem, can very well and should be, part of the solution.
Some of the ideas may not be doable, but the point is that people are thinking and want to help. Suggestions include: look at the high and increasing cost of outside Attorneys. Look at the city’s effort for sidewalk snow removal: why multiple departments, and should the routes be re-evaluated. Review the way workers are scheduled and utilized during snowstorms. Many people thought that the snow removal process should be looked at. Again, duplicate streetlights, especially North Main Street were mentioned. Lack of coordination between Departments with same or similar functions. A number of out of state registrations were seen in employee parking lots, let alone throughout the city. Cash flow and other procedures were mentioned. Some suggested going back to a 40-hour week to reduce OT and also to reduce staff and equipment needs over time. Early Retirement combined with flexibility for City to reassign staff. Combine Departments where feasible. Why do some supervisors get ½ automatic OT each day? Why get up to 5 days/yr off for good attendance?
There were many others, and hopefully there will be an effort to solicit ideas from those possibly willing to come forward. The situation is dire, and will be for some time. Besides the actual deficits, a Virtual deficit has been created: we are years behind on road maintenance, equipment maintenance and replacement are lagging, a number of millions have been taken from the Fund Balance, other infrastructure needs attention and money.
Once the budget is set, the BOF has done their job. Then it is up to management to live within that budget AND for management to try to make those changes that result in cost savings and revenue enhancement.
The State will be floundering for some time. The City should not count on increased support from them. The City must work to control it’s own destiny. These efforts should be year long, not be thought about at Budget time. Management must step up be proactive, and get as many people as possible involved. That can only result in more and different ideas.
As I said before, Bristol is a good city, with many good people. Working together, we can work our way through this and come out of it even better prepared for the long term.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org