Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Budget

Surprisingly little burghosphere response to the budget out there, so I'll take a closer look. After reviewing the news on Forbes, The PG, this trib article and that trib article here are my reflections:
  • Always good to have a projected surplus in a city in as much financial trouble as ours is. Doing what is necessary to achieve that is something Ravenstahl deserves credit for.
  • Council and the Mayor agreed as part of their valentine's day agreement to fund the pension fund 15% more next year then this year. It appears that the $50.8 million in Ravenstahl's budget that is for that purpose exceeds that. By my math a 15% increase would have bee about $48 million. While this blog and others have documented the inadequacy of even that amount, at least it is a move in the right direction.
  • The city had originally planned over $5 million in gambling revenue and Ravenstahl lowered that amount to reflect the delay in licensing. That is a shame, the approximately $3 million that it was lowered is lost to poor planning.
  • The budget (as projected by the mayor) will start running a defecit in 2011. I find it hard to believe that that isn't a little bit optimistic. With only a projected $3 million surplus in 2009, I'm not even sure we'll make it through next year at a surplus.
  • On a somewhat related topic, there has been very little progress (and this is reflected in the budget) on the merger. It is almost certain now that there will not be a referendum in 2009 (as Ravenstahl and Onorato promised) and even the simple consolidation of services seems to be drying up.
  • Many of the cost savings in this budget come from debt refinancing. While debt refinancing is a powerful tool in a down market and saves real money, it can sometimes cure a symptom and leave the disease... i.e. the debt isn't reduced, only the payments are.
  • 65 Vacant positions will be unfilled by the city next year, cutting costs. Is it really that easy to trim costs? Why has it taken us this long?
  • The parking tax will be cut, something I have long been against. If the garages sell out in downtown and oakland, then why cut the tax? Raise it and help out our public transit system AND revenues. That would actually be some revenue from commuters rather then city residents.
  • The next steps are for the Act 47 team to review the budget and then hand it to city council 11/10. We'll all be watching for developments.

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