Last night the City Council took on the 2013 Operating Budget which includes most of the programs, services, and employees.
Typically, we don’t see discussion of the budget this early in the year. Also diverging from previous years, an ad hoc advisory council was selected–two for each council member–to hear each of the department heads discuss potential cuts. The members of the council are listed on the first few pages of the staff report. As you can imagine, most of the department heads explained why each is unable to deal with any further cuts.
This video is a fascinating insight into the way the city is run and how we pay for those services. The Council is meeting again on Thursday to review what they learned last night, but there is no clear vision on the role of the ad hoc council.
The fiscal crunch isn’t limited to Olympia–the Atlantic has more and why it’s happening now.
For the first time since 1980, both property tax revenue and state aid to local governments are declining at the same time. While cities and counties used to be able to count on at least one of those remaining positive, this current state of double decline is creating the most significant strain on the finances of local governments in a generation. And things probably aren’t going to get much better any time soon.
This dismal situation is explained in a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ American Cities Project, which looks at how both state aid and local property tax revenue have sharply declined in recent years. It’s a problem that’s making things even harder for the roughly 90,000 counties, cities and school districts in the U.S. as they struggle to provide services and aid that’s now in much higher demand than before the economic downturn. These two funding sources typically amount to more than half of city revenues, and to have them both declining at the same time is like taking a city’s wallet and then punching it in the stomach. (Emphasis added.)
Joe Hyer’s comments on walkability and planning about 1:55 was the only home run I saw in the comments from the ad hoc panel. If you skip the rest, do yourself a favor and watch his comments.