Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cut Taxes ?

Republicans run around saying, "cut taxes" like they have tourette's syndrome. Facing a budget deficit of about $33M, Republicans on the Cincinnati city council want to cut taxes and ~koff koff~ cut spending. They are not really bringing anything to the table for cutting, tho. Hell, even COA T is questioning their logic.
Lippert, as usual, has nothing. Murray wants to merge city and county services. Nice but that could take years. Ghiz wants to eliminate the Department of Environmental Quality which, I thought, had never been funded anyway. She wants to cut convention subsidies, close rec centers & cut the pay of non-union workers. This Republican love affair with unions in Cincinnati is so strange. Bortz wants to privatize, cut health clinics, cut departments, charge waste fees & generally get about 1/6th of the way to a balanced budget.
The Fishwrap reports on the issue here and has a handy but ham fisted "what would you cut" doohickey for your amusement.
I came up with a $7M surplus with no earnings tax increase which I actually might support if it was sunsetted in a year or two to get us past this current economic period. I opted for a $20 trash fee but I think it should be lower. Perhaps no trash fee but every other week trash pick up and fees for yard waste. Appliance & furniture pick up should probably be eliminated or charged for. If the state & county offer health clinics, I see no reason for Cincinnati to continue with them. I'd need more details on that one but I opted to close them. I'd bag DARE, school resource officers & school nurses. The schools have their own budget, let them deal with it. Save human resources but scrutinize recipients. I saved pools, neighborhood support & even opened rec centers. I put a freeze on union raises (sorry conservatives®). I didn't screw local workers home communities. I saved council pay but I think that should be reduced. If you pay any attention to the complaint authority, it's pretty obvious we don't need it. They find (rightfully) for the cops 99% of the time. I kept 144 firemen. The aging building stock in the city demands that. I fired 127 cops which is kinda crazy but I couldn't fire fewer. I paved the streets but as noted in a previous post that needs to be made more efficient.
One of the Windbag's suggestions was to privatize the management of off duty police details. The police department estimated that cost $900,000 a year. Another option was to take it out of off duty pay received by the officers to the tune of almost $5/hr. At $900,000 a year this would mean about 10 people in the police department are working full time just to manage this service. That's crazy. Like the road maintenance, I don't know as the number of people is the problem so much as gross inefficiency and abysmal management. With modern technology, how many people do we need, tho?
Anyhoo, go for it. See if you can balance the budget.

1 comment:

Mark Miller said...

Couple points to ponder...
Other city departments have even more bloat, but Dohoney keeps targeting police & firefighters for layoffs. Why? They have their own pension fund, so they pay nothing into the city's fund.

You may remember the biggest hurdle (from the City's standpoint) to the Water Works spinoff was how to take a few thousand contributors out of the pension system without bankrupting it. The same problem arises if they outsource trash pickup, road repair, etc. The pension fund is currently hanging by a thread, and any short term loss of payers will kill it because near term payees are already fixed.

No city has ever added a casino without having to staff-up their police department by at least 5% to compensate for the added traffic and associated enforcement. Luckily we did that a few years back in response to elevated crime. Since then, we've had only 2 recruit classes, and normal attrition has dropped another 5% off the force. Factor in a 10% population drop, and we're pretty much already staffed where we need to be.

Like you said, our building stock prevents us from appreciably cutting professional firefighters, or substituting cheaper med-techs or hose-handlers instead. Attrition and few recruits have taken their toll there too, so their numbers are down as well.

As they're fond of repeating, police & fire are 2/3 of the operating budget. But rarely mentioned is that's only 1/3 of total city staffing. City employs about 6,000 people, roughly 2,000 of which are sworn safety (see PDF page 46 here). Cutting any of those other 4,000 is seen as potentially more painful due to their impact on the pension problem.

So where to cut? It's a thorny question. The real problem is that nobody will care what our "environmental quality" is like if they don't feel safe. Nor how pretty our parks are if they can't use them.

Thus, the only thing I'd object to on your list is police staffing. I don't think we can afford a crime spike that cutting sworn personnel might result in. That killed OTR's last revival and could easily do it again. The other 4,000 staff are less crucial to the city's mission, and therefore need to bear the brunt of the cuts. If the pension fund can't handle that, then perhaps it's time to turn it over to the state.