By Michael Grayum, Mayor, City of DuPont
The following was posted to Mayor Grayum’s Facebook on December 11, 2012.
We must get back to basics for City spending and service levels. Our City’s highest priority is providing the best public safety services with the resources we have available.
Public safety services make up the largest portion of our City’s General Fund, which is the same fund we have to make up the majority of the City’s debt payments on the police station, fire station and city hall. We are obligated to make these debt service payments.
I believe it is imperative we re-direct lower priority resources, like maintaining parks and greenways, to fund public safety services to the best extent possible.
As we evaluate the resources we have available and move forward into 2013, we can no longer solely rely upon the City’s ability to deplete our reserves and reduce City services to balance the budget.
Previous budgets were balanced by laying off employees or not funding vacant positions, and reducing service levels in parks and greenways. As our new Mayor, I froze automatic pay increases for exempt staff and also reduced salaries for all for exempt employees. However, savings from those combined cuts didn’t outlast the sluggish economy.
New taxes, fees, charges, program and department cuts are still needed to fill a budget shortfall from not having a stable source of funding to pay the cost of the Civic Center or public safety, resulting in a structural imbalance of revenue.
Proposed path forward to adopt a 2013 budget:
- Maintain reductions to exempt staff salaries and the freeze on exempt staff wage increases.
- Utilize the Real-estate Excise Tax (REET) funds from the recent sale of 92 acres (approximately $130,000) to help reduce the debt payment on the Civic Center, which will free up general funds (REET dollars are one-time funds and must be used for capital expenses).
- Reduced funding for irrigating parks and eliminate funding for maintaining the greenways, freeing up general funds to minimize reductions to public safety personnel.
- Support Councilmember Westman’s and Councilmember Ehrenreich’s proposal for collecting revenue on an annual vehicle tab renewals to fund street improvements through the formation of a Transportation Benefit District. The establishment of license funds can be used to reduce previously proposed increases to the Business and Occupation tax (B&O) tax or help restore public safety cuts.
- Shift Public Works emphasis from maintaining parks to higher priority infrastructure needs, such as streets, sewers, water quality, sidewalks etc.
- Support increasing fees for recreational programs, so expenses match revenue for parks and recreational program.
- Support recommendations to increase the B&O, but do so by creating equity and establishing a new category for businesses not currently paying B&O.
- Support the recommendations from the business community to reform licensing fees and use it to invest in streamlining and reducing permitting time for new development to the City—providing an opportunity for long-term economic growth.
- Establish a fee for rental property owners, who require City and emergency services and are not currently required to pay for a business license or the B&O tax like other business operators.
- Increase utility fees.
- Make a long-term commitment to paying back the funds depleted from reserve accounts to make the debt service payments on the Civic Center ($100K every year for seven years, beginning in 2013).
None of these proposals are ideal and not all of them are long-term solutions. Given our current economic situation and fiscal obligations, we must get back to basics. We must reduce City spending and services, and balance the budget with a combination of: reducing City services, re-directing funds toward the highest priorities for our community, and establishing new revenue resources.
A copy of the revised budget for Council deliberation and action can be found here.