Local Expenses

Can’t we cut local expenses, reduce the number of city/school employees, etc.?

City Council members and School Board members have been holding down expenses for years. During the late 80s and early 90s, the city council eliminated 10-12 full time positions. Over the last 10 years, at least 7 positions have been reduced and/or reallocated to different priorities. Services have been trimmed, streamlined and made more efficient whenever possible and efforts in that direction are continuous. In the meantime, though, the demand for services has remained constant or increased. We are getting the same amount of police calls, fire/ambulance calls, snowfall, permit applications etc as always. Budgets are scrutinized very closely by the elected officials and the administration - we all pay the same taxes.

As with Grand List growth, cost management is a function of scale. For every $52,000 raised or cut in the budget, average residential taxes change by about $10. A budget reduction of $520,000, then, would cut the tax rate by 10 cents or the average tax bill by about $136. $520,000, though, represents about 9 full time employees including pay and benefits or about 12.5% of the city’s present tax funded work force of 72 FTE (the rest are funded through fees such as water/sewer rates, parking etc). 9 less positions will result in a direct reduction in the quality of services discussed earlier. There will be less police officers, fire fighters, road crew workers, planning staff, customer service staff, local facilities, etc. Despite the $0.10 tax rate savings ($136 to the average resident), average taxes will still be well above $3,700. Taxes will still be high but services will have diminished noticeably. This is the dilemma that the Council faces annually.

At least, $0.50 need to be cut to develop tax rates that are competitive with our neighboring communities. To cut the tax rate by $0.50, $2,600,000 in expenditures would need to be trimmed - about 40% of the current tax commitment. Obviously local government services as we know them today would not exist - yet average residential taxes would be about $2,600. For what? Schools, of course, and municipal services that resemble those of the neighbors. Who will answer the 1,800 Fire/Ambulance calls? Or respond to the 18-20,000 police calls? Or plow the roads and sidewalks? Who will review development proposals?

Over the last 6 years, the city budgets have only proposed an average annual tax increase of 1.5%. Cost management remains a high priority for the city. We constantly seek to do things in a more cost-effective manner. Its important, though, to hold the cost issue in perspective as well.