Keeping the Balance
November 6, 2009 4:33 PM
If there's one thing I tried to accomplish in my 2010 budget, it's balance. No deep cuts in any one program, but many small cuts adding up to $1.4 million. My budget calls for the elimination of 22 city jobs but probably no layoffs, no pay increases for anyone in city government, but no pay cuts either. It has no increases but no cuts to community service providers. And, it has a tax increase on the average house of under 4%.
Now there are budget amendments before the Council that would tamper with the balance. The amendments would add $420,000 in new community services spending.
This despite these facts:
• I'm not aware of any community service agencies that asked for the increase. In fact, many of them wrote me to say they were happy with the budget I introduced. I'm sure some will support these amendments, but they did not originate with service providers.
• In my last six budgets, we have increased community development spending by 43%, almost two-and-a-half times the rate of inflation over that period. And if we add new programs like Emerging Neighborhoods and Transit for Jobs, the increase is 73%.
• While we're maintaining funding levels from last year, and we've increased them by 43% in six years, the County is cutting human services by 3% in 2010.
• For years some alders argued that we should increase community services spending by the rate of inflation. Today, inflation is running at a negative 0.2%.
• The amendments, plus the others before the Council would bring the total city tax increase to 4.33%. I know there are Madisonians who felt that even my proposed increase of 3.85% was too much. I've heard from many of them, and I understand their concern. With an unemployment rate twice our normal level, and with many workers taking pay cuts and unpaid furloughs, it's a tough environment to increase taxes at all. Driving taxes up too much threatens a backlash that will cost community service agencies much more in the long run.
This is a tight but reasonable budget for hard times. It's a budget that makes no draconian moves in any direction. But these amendments would simply raise taxes too much. I hope the Council will keep its balance.