Last week I
provided an overview of my proposed 2011 budget to Assembly members following
months of preparation.
My budget reflects a commitment to
taxpayers. The Community Budget Dialogues that we hosted in August sent several
very clear messages. First, the public
told us that they want city government to be more efficient. To that end, we have initiated numerous
measures to re-organize departments, leverage technology to achieve
efficiencies and greater productivity.
Second, the public said loud and clear
that if there was to be any increase in taxes, they preferred to tax things
that people use rather than what they own, like property. Sales tax and specific product taxes were the
most mentioned alternatives to property tax. A tobacco tax is currently on the table for the Assembly to consider,
and, if it passes, is estimated to raise approximately $5 million in new
If we were to tax citizens to the
maximum amount allowed by law next year, property taxes would increase by nearly
$15 million, and this still would not close the multi-million dollar gap
between spending and revenue. This is
not a viable option in a sluggish economy, or in any economy for that matter.
As a result, our proposed 2011 budget
includes a modest $3.7 million increase in property taxes (1.6 percent) and
most of that is for voter-approved maintenance and operations costs associated
with bond- approved projects. Property
taxes are $11 million under the tax cap. A robust discussion with the Assembly regarding spending up to the tax
cap will likely ensue. Some Assembly
members think that by not taxing to the cap, we are "leaving money on the
table". I prefer to think of it as
leaving money in your wallet, so you can make your own spending decisions.
Mayor Sullivan and The Honorable Consul Javier Abud from the Mexican Consulate
The main driver of the budget gap is
the cost of the now infamous labor contracts of 2008. These unprecedented five-year deals provide
annual wage and benefit increases that the city simply cannot afford. In this down economy, those contracts have
salary and benefit increases of eight, nine and even fifteen percent in just one year. These increases
continue over the next several years as well. At a time when raises are modest
or nonexistent in the private sector, it is unreasonable to have union
leadership continue to demand that taxpayers take money from their family
budgets to pay the costs of these unrealistic agreements. It is my hope that union leadership will
survey their membership to identify any potential permanent savings they can
offer to help us fill the gap this year and in the out years.
That said, last
week's presentation to the Assembly was only the first stage in the budget
process. I certainly expect Assembly members to offer budget amendments relating
to spending and revenue, and I look forward to working cooperatively with them and
members of the public to craft a final budget that we can implement on Jan. 1,
proposed budget can be viewed online at www.muni.org
by clicking on the Proposed 2011 Budget link under "What's New."