On Monday, April 18, Mayor Jerry Sanders appeared in council chambers to present the fiscal year 2012 budget to the legislative branch for consideration.
"The good news is our revenues are starting to rebound, albeit slightly," Sanders said. "The bad news, despite the progress we are making, we still have to make service cuts to bring expenditure in line with revenues."
In order to solve the City's $56.7 million estimated deficit for next year, while adding some color to the browned-out fire stations, the mayor proposes cutting library hours to just over 18 hours a week, limiting recreation centers to an average of 20 hours per week, and chopping 248 positions citywide, among other reductions.
"Without question, the cuts I am proposing will be painful," Sanders said during his presentation.
According to Mark Leonard, the city's director of financial management, the following two years will see much of the same in terms of budget expenditures. For 2013's budget, Leonard predicts another $41 million in reductions.
"My concern about this budget is it guts and cuts frontline service but it keeps all the fat and actually adds fat to the layers of management," said councilmember DeMaio.
DeMaio pointed to figures that the library department's overhead is seeing a $518,000 increase while cutting the branch libraries by $4.6 million. DeMaio also noted that the cost to run the branch libraries, such as utilities, was increasing despite previous cuts made to the department.
In response, chief financial officer Mary Lewis said it was likely a budgetary adjustment.
Later, during councilmember comment, council president Tony Young reminded his colleagues of the work ahead of them.
"After the mayor's presentation, then it's our budget, and we are going to have to make decisions as to what it looks like. I would be very disappointed if this budget looks the same at the end of our process. We cannot say, 'The mayor made us do it.’"
City councilmembers will debate the separate departmental budgets during budget hearings in the coming weeks.