Jan 9 2012

City Council Candidates Discuss Issue 1: Spending Priorities

The PCA posed a series of 10  questions to candidates for the Piedmont City Council in the upcoming election on February 7.   Following are the candidates’ entire responses to question #1:

 If the Council concluded it was necessary to cut $1 million in annual expense from the 2012-13 budget, how would you advocate achieving this?


Margaret Fujioka, City Council Candidate, response:

It is never easy to cut a million dollars from a municipal budget, not in any city in the state and not in Piedmont, despite the fact that we have weathered the economic downturn of 2008-09 and the sluggish economic recovery better than most cities.  Given that employee salaries and benefits make up approximately 75% of Piedmont’s expenditures, it only makes financial sense to consider a possible forced reduction in workforce, furloughs, and re-negotiating collective bargaining contracts where feasible. These cuts must be balanced with the impact on the delivery of essential services such as police and fire protection.

Tim Rood, City Council Candidate response:

In recent years, Piedmont’s tax revenues have been stable despite the economic downturn. City expenses have grown beyond our revenues primarily due to inadequate oversight of public works projects, the City takeover and annual subsidy of the swimming pool, and most important, the rapid growth in employee fringe benefit costs, which now represent 25% of the City’s annual budget. If the City Council commits to capping fringe benefit costs at no more than current levels and tax revenues continue to remain stable, I believe Piedmont is unlikely to face the situation described. But if the situation were to change so dramatically that cuts of this magnitude were necessary, considerable public input would be required. Before identifying specific city services to cut or scale back, I would suggest that the Council appoint and get input from the proposed new Municipal Finance Review Committee recommended by the Municipal Tax Review Committee, hold one or more televised town hall meetings to provide background on the budget situation and hear community ideas about programs to cut or scale back, and administer an online poll to get input from the broadest possible range of Piedmonters, including working families and others who may find it difficult to attend public meetings. 

Robert McBain, City Council Candidate response:

Given a requirement to reduce the city budget by $1 million for a  fiscal year,  I recommend  the council meet with the  City Administrator and city department heads;  clear instruction should be given to review all line budgeted expenses.  The message would be to cut back, defer and reduce, wherever possible, to meet stated goals without compromising basic functions, services and public safety.  I have gone through this process many times; for more than twenty-five years I have reviewed, scrutinized and made judgments on budgets. It is an iterative process that can be painful and difficult.  Nonetheless, the city can develop a budget that conforms to revenues.  Equally important, the process should not single out particular departments, activities or initiatives. Two items, the library subsidy to the City of Oakland and the community pool subsidy—as yet not defined- would be issues to discuss because they are large commitments; they should not be pejoratively dismissed because of their controversial nature.   The council should review such items carefully and, as well, look for effective means to increase revenues. 

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