At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, one of the things that came up as a negative about the budget from City Auditor Kevin Kearney, City Treasurer Kevin Kennedy, and Councilmember Doug deHaan was the use of one-time funds to close the budget gap. City Manager John Russo took issue with the characterization of the one-time as being the same as the one-time funds from previous years:
I just wanted [Controller] Fred [Marsh] to address the issue of one-time, use of one-time revenue, because I don’t think this is really the same as last year. I don’t think the characterization is quite right.
Fred Marsh says:
Basically for the 11-12 budget we’re having some budget savings that were realized due to the great efforts of our departments and I think they’re really to be commended for being lean, staying tight within their budgets…yes we have used some one-time revenues in the past, there’s a little bit of that in this budget, but the budget savings is really different from one time revenues. It’s really due to diligent efforts of staff in keeping control of costs.
John Russo then steps in:
Let me say why this is so important, this is so important because if you staff squeezes every dollar as hard as it can to make savings that’s a good thing. If Ms. Goldman and Mr. Marsh come up with expense numbers at the beginning of the year that turn out to be too high because we squeezed the numbers, we could have just had lower numbers and then it wouldn’t look like a one time budget savings. Our very conservative approach to maybe overestimating expenses a little bit and underestimating revenue a bit is something we want to do and continue to encourage. But if we then re-characterize the reality when we close up the budget as one time because we spent less that’s not a one-time savings at all, that just shows that we can do this job for this much less money.
He then goes into a tangent about retail sales tax leakage, worth watching if you are interested.
Oh and then Doug deHaan goes on to some tangent about how employees are already taking a hit, but something about two-tiered systems. Essentially he is making very little sense and sort of dancing around various subjects to try to justify why he doesn’t like the budget. When Councilmember Beverly Johnson asks him for specifics, the only thing he offers is that he thinks that outsourcing ambulance services would be a good start even though he says that it would be a political non-starter for the other Council people.
He then references a letter from the County that is “full of caveats” and saying that they can manage it, but as Councilmember Lena Tam explains, the letter from the County’s private ambulance company reached the conclusion that they could not offer the same service level for cheaper. I’ve posted that letter many times, it’s the last page of the set linked to. So it’s not clear whether Doug deHaan is advocating for lower levels of service at similar rates or the same level of service at a higher rate.