There’s no putting it off any more, so brace yourselves . . . it’s budget time!
Yes, the council will be focused on little else – and meeting twice a week for a couple of weeks to get it all in. This means the annual review of city department heads, each predicting that the city will sink into the ground if even a dollar of their funding is cut.
Your Gilbert has been watching, well, “watching” as much as you can watch something with a blanket over your head. We’ve been listening too. We really do listen – every fifteen minutes we take our fingers out of our ears until we feel sick – usually about 10 seconds, then stick them back in.
So, we have a broad impression of what’s been discussed so far.
The important news first: NO tax increases, NO tax rate increase. That’s what’s proposed, anyway. City Manager Barbara Matthews has offered a budget that exceeds expected revenues, but she proposes to make up the difference with money from the General Fund – which is basically the city’s piggy bank. The economic forecast – that there would be deep cuts like last year, has been modified. Now, it is for partly cloudy with a possible scattering of unexpected revenues. So, the city’s treasury has stepped down from DEFCON-1.
There was a public hearing April 11. on the budget. Environmentalists covered the hearing like leaf mulch on a spring garden. In what appeared to be an organized effort, speaker after speaker asked the council and city manager to find funds to hire a sustainability coordinator.
Hiring a sustainability coordinator was the main recommendation of the Task Force on Environmental Action last year. This would be a person who would take charge of all the city’s environmental issues, shrinking it’s carbon footprint, and writing grant applications to pay for such projects. There was a lot of emphasis on this last point – and wild speculation that a sustainability coordinator could bring in his or her weight in gold – or at least enough to pay his/her own salary.
Some councilmembers took up the green battle flag of Sustainability, especially Josh Wright who has said for weeks that he’d support a raise in taxes if that’s what it took to get a sustainability coordinator. They called for a budget revision that would fund that new position. Wright said, his voice edged with accusation, that more time is needed to make such a revision. Mayor Bruce Williams assured him that time for such discussions was built into the schedule, but he’d add another meeting if it was necessary.