Council budget plan: Arm-wrestling begins on district staff cuts

Well, now we’re getting somewhere with the city budget. The city council is trying to cut its own budget, and — wouldn’t you know it — there is some disagreement about how to do it.

Jerry Allen appears to have thrown the first cherry bomb in the toilet by suggesting that council members forgo each having a secretary and instead share one: projected savings for next year are $500,000, which also includes other cost-cutting for each council member, according to a DMN story by Rudolph Bush.

Some of Allen’s council cohorts don’t like that plan, with seven council members — Tennell Atkins, Steve Salazar, Pauline Medrano, Carolyn Davis, Vonciel Jones Hill, Angela Hunt and Delia Jasso —signing a memo drafted by Atkins stating that council members should be allowed to determine "the budgetary needs of their own offices," according to the DMN story.

Hunt told the DMN that reducing staff the way Allen suggested would make it "impossible" to serve constituents, and based on the workload that most of the council members have, I’d have to agree with that sentiment. The secretaries and assistants often do the yeoman’s work downtown, filtering calls, connecting constituents with other city employees who have answers to questions or can take action on problems, and basically make it possible for the council members to actually get something done. And it’s reasonable to think that if other city services are cut, even more calls and complaints will be directed to each council member.

And remember, after all, the council members are being paid $35,000 annually to do what can easily become an 80-hour-per-week job. Yes, they signed up for it, but it’s still a whole lot of work and grief for the money.

No doubt the council needs to make some cuts in its own budget even as it wields the axe everywhere else, and it’s good that Allen at least kicked the ball forward by suggesting something. But the whole thing just goes to show how difficult it’s going to be for the city to whack $190 million (10 percent of last year’s budget) from next year’s budget.

The cuts are going to be deep, as Jeff Siegel has consistently pointed out here at Back Talk, and the politics is going to be brutal.


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  • Rick Wamre

    I just noticed that Angela Hunt has posted her ideas for cost-savings at the council level on her website. Her ideas generate savings of about $450,000 annually and include some pretty logical cuts ‘ travel, meals, home delivery of council materials. You can check it out here…

    http://www.angelahunt.com/2009/07/29/cutting-the-city-council-budget/