Keeping the Lights On
August 9, 2010 12:46 PM
Hundreds of police officers are hitting the streets in Oakland. But they're not going there on patrol, rather they're looking for work after being laid off thanks to budget cuts. Firefighters have been fired in San Jose. Whole neighborhoods have gone dark as street lights have been turned off to save money in Colorado Springs. And an entire bus service was eliminated in suburban Atlanta, forcing at least one man to walk three miles to his job.
In the last three months state and local governments have laid off 102,000 workers and slashed all kinds of services as the Great Recession stubbornly refuses to yield to anything resembling a robust recovery. You can read more about it in last Saturday's New York Times at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/07/us/07cutbacksWEB.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper.
It's important to remind ourselves of this now because today is the day that City of Madison departments submit their 2011 budget requests. As we enter the third year of Great Recession budgets, we should remind ourselves of how well we've managed things so far. We have not laid anyone off, cut pay or dramatically reduced any service. In fact, this year we even added a paramedic ambulance, a new police training facility and more hours of bus service. In 2010 the only noticeable changes were going off schedule for brush pickup and reducing large item collections from every week to every other week.
But even with very cautious estimates incorporated in our 2010 budget, we're finding revenues from investments, room taxes and building permits running below our already anemic projections. This does not bode well for 2011. With agency requests coming in today, I can soon begin in earnest to shape next year's budget. While it's not clear yet if we'll be able to achieve it, my goal will be to maintain as much of the high level of services that we already have. In this environment, just keeping what we have will be a significant accomplishment.