I keep reading news articles or catching bits of city council meetings, all revolving around the FY-2010 budget. The budget situation is grim. The city has limited ability to raise revenue yet is facing reduced state aid. It's important for our local government to identify waste and reduce spending. It's important to take advantage of grants and other funding that may allow us to preserve city services. We need to work had to negotiate pay cuts and concessions in health care and other benefits with our local unions. We have to do this to both help preserve the services of our city but also to protect jobs and keep people employed.
The school committee voted for a level service budget. Basically a budget that would properly fund the same services as the current year budget. The Mayor trimmed that figure to a level funded budget, basically providing the same money, even though that will no longer pay for the same level of service.
Personally, while I applaud the committee for drawing the line in the sand and saying we must fund our children's education, I would have drawn the line a bit higher. This year's fiscal budget is just plain horrible. Cuts were made mid-year that increased classroom sizes and reduced services. I agree with the committee that we can't afford to make anymore cuts but I personally feel we must find a way to restore some of the services cut in FY-2009. We keep talking about how important education is for the future of our city, well that means that in tough times you have to find ways to continue to fund it.
Now, the Mayor submits a budget to the city council that reduces the school budget to 82+ million and would be dependent on an 8% pay cut from the unions.
The budget has not gone over well with the council, which wants more information and a format that would allow easy comparison with the FY-09 budget. Some of these points seem valid and quite legitimate and others an exercise in head pounding. To listen to these meetings the councilors all seem to ask the same questions over and over oblivious to the fact that the councilor to their left or right just asked that very same question or made the very same point. In the meeting I just watched, one councilor wants to revisit a resolution the council voted on the night before, even though another councilor made the very same motion not more than an hour before. And this councilor failed to even second the motion, and now he wants to make the same motion! I don't want to be critical here but are they napping when not on camera? Are these meetings simply an exercise to get on camera or quoted in tomorrow's paper?
Times are tough right now. We need our elected leadership to brainstorm some solutions, make some tough choices, work together and prioritize those things most important to our city's health. That's not what I see going on.