November 18, 2010 10:57 AM
Early this morning the City Council passed the 2011 city budget. On three hours of sleep I can look back on it and say that I'll be happy to sign it later on today.
When I started my budget process in the summer, I set out three goals. First, protect basic services. Second, keep any tax increase to only what's necessary to do that. And third, accomplish those two things without resorting to budgeting gimmicks. I think the Council and I achieved all three goals.
Not only did we protect basic services, we expanded them. We added eight more police officers and a new unit focused on reducing crimes by repeat offenders, added a few more personnel in the Streets Division to help with various tasks around the city, and added another quarter million dollars in community service investments. There will be no cuts in library hours, parks maintenance or bus service and there will be no Metro fare increase again this year.
We accomplished that without using overly optimistic revenue projections or relying on unrealistic savings or one-time windfalls. And for the second year in a row we didn't dip into our long-term cash reserve. Even after three tough Great Recession-era budgets, the city still enjoys a very healthy fund balance, which is one key factor in maintaining our Aaa bond rating, a nationally recognized score of sound fiscal health.
But we couldn't have made those modest increases to basic services and stayed away from unsound budgeting without raising taxes. I challenged the Council to keep the tax increase on the average house at 5% and they came pretty close with an increase just a hair above that amount. There's no question that 5% is a lot to ask of people these days. But the alternatives of slashed services or the kind of budget shell game that has become common at the state level would have been worse.
So, while I take very seriously the concerns I've heard about any tax increase at a time like this, I'm willing to take that heat because I believe we did the right thing overall for the present and future of the city. In a tough time this is a good budget.