Sunday, February 7, 2010

It's Time to Approve the Budget

We should have done this earlier in the year but here we are in February, preparing to vote on budget amendments, the next step in the municipal budgeting process. Unfortunately it has been a typical year - we are trying to reduce a high tax increase by cutting expenses. Revenues increases continue to be flat or down so we have no other method to attack the proposed tax increase.

So where are we?

1. the administration introduced a budget with a 9.6% tax increase.
2. the Council Finance Committee (I am a member) proposed $1.1 million in cuts.
3. the Council, as a whole, agreed with most of the changes proposed by the Finance Committee, leading to Monday's Council meeting: the consensus changes will be on the agenda in the form of budget amendments. The Council must vote to approve these amendments so we can advertise the budget to the public, hold a public hearing and (finally) approve the budget for the July 1, 2009 - June 30, 2010 fiscal year.

I hope the final steps in the process are not typical of some previous years decisions. Painful budget cuts have sometimes been beaten back by special interest groups. That would be a big mistake this time around. The Council budget truly spreads the pain to all concerned. Each group agrees that property tax increases are hurting our residents but fights to prevent the cut that affects them.

Expect some groups to be present as the Council works on the budget. Expect some to advocate in the spirit of constructive debate. Expect some to threaten the Council and to spread misleading rumors in the community (example - eliminating positions in the top heavy police division is a personal vendetta against a few captains).

I urge residents to attend our Council meeting Monday night. One of the interest groups that is always underrepresented is homeowners. When elected officials hear primarily from employee unions, budgeting for compensation, health benefits and pensions can and have become a burden that threatens the future of our state and city.

If the Council resists special interest group pressure the 9.6% tax increase reduces to around 7.5%. That is still too high but some of the budget cuts set the stage for more significant cuts next year when we can get 12 months of savings instead of only a few. If the Council bows to pressure, the tax increase goes back towards 9.6% and will mean a higher increase next year. That would be disastrous to residents struggling to make mortgage and rent payments. Come out and advocate for a balanced approach to Plainfields budget. That is what the City Council will be voting on Monday.


Anonymous said...

The council should take the 40K they gave to a poorly run recreation department, and put it toward doing something that will help Plainfield long term, like buying new awnings to make Front steet look better to draw people for outside Plainfield to our businesses.

How can the council say that they are serious about budget cutting, when they can't hold people accountable for the money they were given? Where is the proof that the rec program last year was a success? There is none, and we think it is a success because Wynn says so? No proof, just on a say so?

Well then council members, I believe the city can run with no tax increase for 5 years? Prove it - oh no, I don't have to - I just told you so.

Rob said...

To Anonymous at 5:30PM: I disagree about providing the funds for awnings. A normal city would zone a set of acceptable standards for business/store fronts in large commercial areas of the city and provide a time line that the businesses have to make the changes. It usually would span a 3-5yr timeline for existing businesses but be required by new businesses and any existing business that alters their business/store front appearance at all or have to make repairs.
This institutes a set of standards that are not only cohesive in looks but upgrades the expectations and image of the city as a whole.
Again though..I say..this is how a normal city does things.
Let's hope the city council keeps the tax increase to a "paltry" ( gag ) 7%+....