October 6, 2009 11:15 AM
Tonight I'll introduce my 2010 operating budget to the City Council. Every budget has an underlying theme and the word for this one is steady.
This budget is balanced with lots of small cuts but no dramatic slashes. There is a tax increase, but it's lower than the average of the last decade and a half and only a little more than last year.
Overall spending in this budget comes in at the lowest increase in memory, about one half of one percent. And we did all that without significantly increasing fees for services or leaning on our fund balance.
This budget is designed to maintain our high level of services while also preserving our long-term fiscal health. One measure of our fiscal soundness as an entity is our Aaa bond rating. It's rare for any municipality to have that highest of all ratings. This year the bond rating companies looked deep into our fiscal soul and renewed that rating.
The 2010 budget is designed to appeal more to marathoners, then sprinters. It's built to hold up and keep our City in a strong and healthy position for the long run.
You can see my entire budget message below.
A Responsible & Steady Budget for Hard Times
My 2010 Executive Operating Budget gets us through hard times with minimum disruption to services our residents count on and with a tax increase that is below the average of the last decade and a half. In this challenging climate, this budget provides steadiness and consistency that will allow us to weather the storm without radical swings in property taxes or basic services. My budget has three themes:
Stability & Fiscal Responsibility. Our ability to weather this storm comes largely from responsible fiscal planning and management over not just the last six years but over the last few decades. Virtually alone among local governments or the state, the City of Madison has a significant reserve to help cushion us against even severe blows like the current recession. That cushion has helped us avoid significant layoffs or service disruptions. In addition, even under the much more intense scrutiny prompted by the banking crisis, Madison has retained its Aaa bond rating, a clear and strong signal of our good stewardship of the taxpayers' resources. This budget continues that stewardship in the following ways.
• Overall spending comes in at less than a half of a percent increase, the lowest increase in expenditures in at least 15 years. Moreover, we have accomplished this while absorbing a $2.4 million increase in the cost of health insurance for our employees, a $384,000 increase in landfill tipping fees, a $950,000 increase to add a new paramedic ambulance, and a cut in State Shared Revenue and other payments of over $700,000.
• Taxes on the average house will go up 3.85%, significantly less than the 15-year average of 4.3%. It's more than I would like, but it is better than the alternatives of basic service cuts or doing damage to our long-term fiscal stability.
• To maintain our Aaa bond rating and our solid financial position even in the deepest recession since the Great Depression, I am not dipping into our City's long-term cash reserve.
Cooperation With City Employees. Much of the pain in this budget will be felt internally as we ask City managers and frontline workers to manage for another year with less. I realize that not all of these policies can be sustained year-to-year, but I am grateful for the patience and cooperation of City staff as we manage our way through this challenging time. It is this cooperation that will help us avoid layoffs, mandatory furloughs and pay cuts.
• To increase salary savings I will continue the City hiring freeze that I began last May throughout 2010, and I will work with the Human Resources Department to encourage our employees to take voluntary time off without pay in certain departments under defined circumstances.
• My budget counts on all other City unions following the lead of Firefighters Local 311 by accepting no pay increases for the next two years with a 3% increase at the end of the contract period. Managers and non-represented staff, including myself and my staff, will also forego pay increases for the next two years.
• City travel budgets will be cut by one-fifth from last year's levels.
Greater Efficiency & Creative Solutions. This budget represents my continued commitment to the basics. I am not proposing radical swings in the services our citizens count on, but I am proposing more efficient and creative ways to use the resources we have.
• We will not change our policy to begin general snow plowing operations at three inches.
• I am keeping my commitment to enhancing public safety by adding an eighth paramedic unit, increasing our ability to provide timely emergency medical services throughout the city.
• We will supplement police staffing according to our recently completed patrol staffing study, and we will build upon our existing crime prevention and gang initiatives. We will accomplish this not by adding levy-supported officers in this budget, but by combining our current crime prevention and gang units, civilianizing four positions currently serving municipal court, contracting for security in the municipal court, and adding authorization for additional staff contingent on the receipt of a federal COPS grant.
• To save almost $110,000 and decrease pollution and greenhouse emissions I am once again proposing that we move to every-other-week pickup of large items that are discarded at the curb.
• To save $145,000, I am proposing that we continue to pickup brush at the curb but not on a defined schedule.
• This budget proposes saving $67,000 in pay for election officials by using City employees to fill 160 shifts at the polls.
• My budget proposes more effectively using our resources to take better care of heavily used ice rinks and working with neighborhood groups to maintain less used rinks.
• Because the recession is producing more strain on unemployed workers and their families, I am proposing no cuts in our Community Service and Community Development Block Grant programs.
These are certainly challenging times. What's called for is steadiness and consistency, not wild swings and ill-considered gestures. This budget gets us through another year of hard times without gutting the basic services that Madisonians value and that provide the foundation on which our economy will grow.
With the patience of our citizens, the cooperation of our employees, the creativity of our community and the steadiness that comes with taking the long view, we will emerge from the recession not just intact, but stronger than ever and positioned to take full advantage of the better days to come.