Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Help Us Balance the Budget

It’s not fun being on the City Council these days. You all know we getting hammered for charging new fees – the 911 fee, the weed abatement inspection fee. But we’re also in the middle of making very tough decisions about how to cut our spending as well. Nobody’s hammered us about cutting their services yet – but I’m sure that will come soon enough.

I want to emphasize, however, that we’re still in the process of figuring out what programs and services to cut in order to balance the budget. We haven’t really made any decisions yet, though the staff has made some recommendations. So I’d like to ask for your help. I’d like you to let me know where you think we can cut.

In order to do so, I’d like you to take a look at the same information we’re working off of.

A few weeks ago, we on the City Council adopted four principles to guide us through these

Principle 1: In spite of adverse economic conditions, the Council remains focused and committed to the achievement of the long-term General Plan Strategic Visions embodied in the 2005 General Plan and will continue its commitment to the community to become a national model.

Principle 2: To ensure increasingly limited resources are allocated to what matters most in achieving the General Plan Strategic Visions, the Council recognizes that tough choices will need to be made and that its emphasis will be placed on eliminating, reducing, or restructuring lower-priority programs and expenses rather than compromising the success of high-priority efforts by inadequate funding.

Principle 3: Buildinq on the first two principles, programs and initiatives that produce income or save future expenses should generally be given higher priority than those that simply consume revenue.

Principle 4: Because we will be asking more in these difficult times from workforce, the Council remains committed to the goal of competitive compensation to continue to retain and attract able and loyal staff.

To gather information about how we spend our money, go to the agenda for the April 7th meeting and pull down the staff report for Agenda items #6 (“Budgeting For Outcomes Process”).

Warning: This is a really long staff report – close to 200 pages. There’s a lot of detail from the internal City Hall process of trying to prioritize what the city spends money on – a process that was known as “Budgeting For Outcomes,” and included not only city staff members but also representatives from the Chamber of Commerce. There’s mind-numbing detail here, but it contains three really important things.

First, it contains a breakdown of how we spend all of our General Fund money and, second, a first cut at what might be reduced or eliminated. This is broken down by what we call our “strategic goals” -- the goals contained in the Seize The Future vision and the General Plan. The sheets called “Citywide Outcome Rating Work Sheets” show how much money the City spends on different city activities. For every strategic goal, there’s another worksheet behind the “Outcome Rating Work Sheet” called the “Citywide Reduction-Restructure-Elimination Work sheet”. This was a theoretical exercise by the staff – if we stopped doing the 20% of the things that were least important, what would those be?

Third, beyond these worksheets are a set of recommendations – one for each strategic goal – from the Budgeting For Outcomes committee for each of those goals. This was the final set of recommendations made to the City Manager and the staff leadership team by these committees.

Take a look at all of these. It’ll help you understand what we spend money on, and I hope it’ll help you focus on what we should and should not be spending money on.

Once you’re doing doing that, go to the agenda for the April 1st meeting and pull down the staff report for Agenda item #1 -- Actions to Maintain Fiscal Sustainability”. This is a much shorter report – only 18 pages. And the really important part is the last 9 pages – the list labeled “Attachment A”.

Attachment A is the City Manager’s final recommendation of what to cut. Some of these things can be cut immediately; others can be cut in the next fiscal year starting July 1.

Please look this over and tell me what you think. What should we spend money on? What should we cut? Just email me at fulton4ventura@gmail.com.

And what do you have questions about? I’m compiling a list of questions and concerns I’m going to pass on to the City Manager. Give me a question and I’ll pass it on, and then I’ll print the answers.

Thanks for paying attention.

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