This City Council is definitely in a much better position, budget wise, than previous City Councils. On the back of staff reductions and savings from previous years — in addition to an improved economy — this Council found itself in the position of having a lot of reserves in excess of the 20% required.
In addition to spending more money than suggested by staff in the proposed budgets, Vice Mayor Frank Matarrese suggested that the excess money above the 20% required for reserves be spent down so — I guess — there isn’t the temptation to spend it. That one was a little hard for me to wrap my head around, that the City will spend money in order to not spend it, but I believe that the goal was to not have the buffer so that the City wouldn’t be tempted to backfill shortfalls in down years with the reserve buffer. Of course, one could say that is the whole point of a reserve, but personally I think it’s ironic that the City Council member voted in to be the fiscal conservative is the one that suggested the City spend money as opposed to continuing to sock it away in a rainy day fund.
Anyway as staff reliably always does, they came back with suggestions on how to spend down this some odd million dollars on non-recurring, one-time expenses. Based on the laundry list that was given to the staff by the City Council. staff produced a report on why some of the ideas were better than others:
Naturally some people will want to fund other items because right now, the only fully funded item that can be touted during a campaign is “Emergency water supply and study” if actual physical water thingies get built. The other items that will be fully funded are not nearly as marketable as, say, the Carnegie Building for the Pinball Museum to move in or if the City started offering health benefits for part-time employees.
Personally, I’d either keep in all in reserves or roll it into the “economic uncertainty/contingency” category and OPEB.