The next city council meeting is next Tuesday at 7 pm (2/2/21). On the agenda (item 7A) is a mid-year budget review. The packet is found here and the budget information starts on page 12.
It is my understanding that this meeting will be a study session and any actions will be at the following meeting.
Here are the things that came up for me (in no particular order) as I reviewed the budget documents.
- There is a huge budget variance on page 16 (1.04 million). This means that the Finance Director’s projections have been way off. It also means that is how much we are behind in the first six months. It is both important that we assess as to why the Finance projections are so off and address this new 1+ million dollar hole. In addition, how do we know that this is not going to get worse.
- We have gone from ending the FY with over 600K in “surplus” to now just 303K in surplus. Which means no building of a reserve or hope of a lower TRAN loan next year. And that small of a surplus amount can be lost with any little crisis.
- Page 19 is a disgrace. It tells us absolutely nothing. What it appears to say is that there have been no real cuts in the Police and Fire Departments which are the biggest pieces of our budget. Keeping vacant positions open (that have been open for a long time) IS NOT saving real money. If we have open PD positions they need to be removed from the budget. And PD and FD need to take their fair share of the cuts. The recently negotiated contract with PD is awful. They refuse (or weren’t asked) to take the same cuts the rest of the staff has taken.
- The recreation department deficit has gotten worse even with the late cuts that were made.
- Staff is not advising any new cuts and they have not even pulled together any information about the potential for new cuts. They are putting it on council without giving them options. This current budget amendment is just restating the same things that have been said and done before. It adds nothing now.
- Why is Council letting staff continue to do this? It is patently apparent more cuts need to be made. At a minimum, another 300k to get us to the projected budget, and in actuality, a better number would be 1.04 million to match the current deficit in the budget.
- What we need is a menu of what 1.04 million in cuts would look like so that community can express feedback on what they would rather see cut. We also need a council ready to make some tough choices. No matter what cuts are made people will be unhappy.
Some examples of 1.04 million in cuts might be
4 Police Officers OR
4 Fire Department Staff OR
Cut most recreation services-we would need specifics on this
Of course, it would make more sense if cuts were broken down into smaller increments. We believe each police officer and fire department staff (line staff) is about 350K in total compensation. So there could be mixing and matching. We don’t necessarily have good data on what cuts in recreation would look like and that department has already made a lot of cuts while FD and PD have remained untouched.
Things I am not clear on
- Are the furloughs beyond January? Because initially many of them were through Jan. They need to be through the calendar year at minimum.
- Why on page 18, which is the December Cash Projections, are some of the actual numbers for earlier in the year going down. Isn’t actual supposed to be actual?
- What amount is the city projecting they will need for a TRAN for the next year? I heard that the Finance Director said at the last FAB meeting that it might be substantially less and if so I am curious as to where the money to pay it down is coming from.
- Why do we not have an updated 5-year projection? At a recent FAB meeting, Mark shared one from February 2020 but as we all know none of that is valid anymore.
- How is the council going to better utilize the Financial Advisory Board? Are they going to be allowed to be something more than rubber-stamping a budget? Why would we have their expertise if we will not use it?