Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Budget Reality (again)

On Monday, City Council was presented the working documents for the FY 2011-2012 fiscal year budget. While it's a better year than the past several, we still expect to have to make $4.8 million in additional cuts to the budget. This will be a painful process and we will do our best to find the program and service reductions in the least impactful areas possible. But we need to be realistic that we will all feel the reductions.

It's important to share that of the city's +/- $250 million annual budget, nearly $75million of this goes to RCPS off the top. Then the city must provide certain programs and services, carry out certain required and necessary administrative functions (managing and operating the city generally, collecting taxes and administering the courts and legal functions, funding public safety and human service programs and services required by the state etc.). So at the end of the day, the city has only a little more than 1/4 of the budget to discretionarily spend - the money that funds our more typical activities, maintenance of the city, operation of parks and greenways, management of infrastructural operations and systems etc. With nearly $25 million less money in the last three years, and having to cut this out of the discretionary areas (while maintaining public safety, increasing funding to schools to offset state funding cuts as best as possible), it has been a challenge.

Our city manager, Chris Morrill said it best when he said that we have cut the low-hanging fruit, the medium-hanging fruit and the high-hanging fruit. Now we are cutting limbs.

So this is the less than positive news but I think it's important to try to be as realistic as possible so that folks understand the "new normal" we are living in where we have to find ways to adapt to less revenue and increasing costs - clearly a daunting challenge.

The great news is we have excellent city personnel who are working tirelessly to deliver services and programs, provide public safety to the city and its residents, educate our kids, provide recreational amenities and keep the city looking wonderful and other services - all with 188 fewer staff positions and no raises or cost of living adjustments for several years (we are working to find the resources for a one-time bonus by une 30 of this year). Our budget staff are some of the best around and our administration is handling the many challenges with a genuine understanding of the effects additional cuts will have on the daily lives of our citizens. The initial budget we just received truly reflects this. And council recognizes the need to be fiscally responsible while continuing to position Roanoke and its residents on a positive course for the future.

We will get through this difficult period and I really believe come out in a stronger position on the other side. We've worked through the most challenging financial times faced in a long while, and believe we have generally done well and worked with our partners in the business, non-profit and other outside agency community to more efficiently operate and deliver for the taxpayers.

I hope folks will continue to call and email to provide input on areas to protect and areas where reductions may be palatable.

Thank you.

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