Survival of the Trimmest

Dear Readers,
For the second time this week, someone on the city council dais reported fielding a call from a county government contact, warning that county funds for the city are about to be slashed even more than previously stated.
Monday April 12, the city manager reported such a warning call. Thursday, April 19, it was the mayor. We suspect the county proposes cuts, alerts the victims, then waits to see which ones bring the most pressure to bear not to make the cuts. Presumably the ax falls the heaviest on the weak ones. Government Darwinism.
The mayor’s call clued him in to county’s plan to deal with its 124 million budget shortfall by cutting tax rebates to municipalities 20%. In Takoma Park, this would mean a reduction of $600,000.

The council and staff gasped. Councilmember Josh Wright quipped, “What’s the process for secession?
The mayor said the city will try to keep the cuts from happening. If not, there will have to be another $600,000 cut from the city budget.
Services Cut
The city budget work sessions continued Thursday night, April 22. The Housing and Community Development Department was up first. The city manager has proposed a $1,303,419 budget for that department which deals with code enforcement, landlord-tenant issues, community development, and affordable housing. That amount is $87,883 less than this year’s.
Sara Daines, the department director, described the cutbacks in employees and services. The council was not happy to hear about it, especially the service reductions. They saw no alternative, however. It was true that services would suffer, Daines said, but she tried to cut unnecessary or outdated items first. For example, the city-printed Survival Guide, a listing of city resources and businesses for residents) is less needed now that people can find that information on the internet, she said. The New Hampshire Corridor revitalization could rely on outside grants, city funding was not necessary.
More Services Cut
Public Works Department followed. The budget for that department is $3,846,485. That is less that this year’s budget, but only by $7,616.
Still, they must reduce or change services. Thanks to a new, larger trash truck they can change from a weekly 5 day pickup schedule to a 4 day one. This will reduce overtime pay. Leaf collection will be a 5 week program rather than a 7 week program. The department will also be cutting back on using temporary labor.
The renovation of the public works facility is the biggest item in its budget, councilmember Josh Wright observed. Braithwaite stressed that the renovation was as minimal as it could be, more minimal than she liked. There are important renovations not being funded – removal of the outdated, underground fuel tanks, for example.
No Fee Change
Stormwater management, a public works program, is budgeted for $501,384. That takes care of storm drains, and other issues related to rain water runoff, including erosion and pollution. The program pays for itself, however, from fees that all city property owners and developers must pay. Those fees will remain the same as last year.

– Gilbert

About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

2 Comments on "Survival of the Trimmest"

  1. Oh, what’s the problem? The City Council should just “maintain services” and “keep jobs” by resorting to the policy that it used in the past when revenues were actually increasing: RAISE TAXES! or has that become “passé”?

  2. Roger Schlegel | April 26, 2010 at 4:22 pm |

    It’s just a small piece of the puzzle, but worth pointing out (again) that the public works facility could be trimmed in cost by restricting or eliminating the expansion of the administrative building’s footprint. More than simply a replacement of worn-out facilities and addition of a much-needed employee locker room, the project contains elements that increase the administrative area with features such as a conference room. We already have good meeting space around the corner in the Civic Center, and some administrative functions could potentially be moved from Public Works to Maple Ave. The annual payment on the entire project will probably amount to the equivalent of three FTE positions with benefits; with some creative thinking, perhaps we could save someone’s job.

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