Service Review Shaves $5.4 Million from Proposed Budget
Cambridge - Months of service review activities by City staff have shaved $5.4 million off the City of Cambridge budget which presents a significantly better starting point for the Budget Task Force when talks begin.
Task Force Chair and City Councillor Gary Price says Cambridge is at a good starting point because of the belt tightening leading up to the budget process. “Council asked staff to perform a service review to look at cost reductions and efficiencies to help us get to a better starting point for the budget process.”
The service review began in late 2009 to help council build a four-year financial strategy. In phase one, staff reduced expenses by some $2.4 million and shaved three full time (currently vacant) jobs from the payroll. In 2010, the second phase saw a further $3.3 million in reductions and 16.08 full time jobs were eliminated mostly through attrition. In total, the review reduced expenses by $5.4 million and staffing levels declined by 19.08 people.
“The significant ground work accomplished means the draft budget opens with a proposed 4.26 percent tax increase which equates to $42.87 per household with a market value of $225,000,” says Price. This lean capital and operating budget approach includes no growth items, no new staff and basically flat-lining or reducing expenditures for 2011.
Despite the significant positive support the City received from other levels of government, some $33 million in stimulus funding alone, Cambridge is still facing a deficit of $153 million over the next ten years to address the gap for infrastructure.
“There are aging infrastructure requirements that need attention and the days are gone where a municipality can pay for things like roads, sewers and community growth simply through property taxes,” says Jim King, the Chief Administrative Officer. While the bare bones budget approach and multi-government partnerships have helped compensate for factors like lower tax assessment, shortfalls in investment income, depleting reserves and a general decline in the economy, more needs to be done he contends. King says he will provide a report to the Budget Task Force to initiate a third phase in the service review that will try to address the gap in the capital budget program.
This year more than $34 million worth of capital projects are planned, only $18.9 million are tax supported. These include over $1 million for road rehabilitation and $2.7 million for upgrades to facilities such as Public Works. The annual plan also includes money for sports field development, bikeways, streetlighting, fire station and equipment upgrades, and libraries.
Budget Task Force meetings begin with delegation night on Monday, January 17th at 7:00 pm at Cambridge Historic City Hall. Subsequent budget day public meetings are slated for Friday, January 21st and Thursday, January 27th at 9:00 am 4:00pm. Thursday, February 3rd at 9:00 am 4:00 pm is also scheduled for Budget Task Force deliberations should an additional day be required. Cambridge City Council will approve the 2011 Operating Budget and the 2011-2020 Capital Budget plans on Monday, March 7th.