Each year at about this time, your City leadership team works hard to craft a citywide budget that reflects an optimism that our employees will have the resources required to provide essential services, and also a bit of realism that balancing revenues and expenses has become harder and harder. This year is certainly no exception given how much our world has changed in 2020.
In the midst of a global pandemic that has hit our local economy hard, the team has worked together to prepare a conservative budget in the midst of uncertainty. Never before have we embarked on a new fiscal year with so much uncertainty about the health of our economy and the tax revenue to support the services we provide to the community. The pandemic has triggered several potential new funding sources from the State and Federal Government for this coming year, but the amount, timing, and sustainability of such is unknown. We remain hopeful that additional funds will be allocated, but there is no guarantee.
We cannot continue with “Business as usual” with our historical allocation of resources given the current stream of tax revenues. Although our full-time employee count has remained steady at around 1,225 for the past five years, our employee-related expenses has grown considerably. Quite simply, this City’s expenses have outpaced its revenues, and we need to make considerable progress in creating a more sustainable budget for the future.
In pursuit of this goal, every department and labor group has been requested to make concessions, and there will be impacts to public safety and quality of life services, including our recreation program, streets program, and parks maintenance. Our employees will be asked to make changes to the way in which they provide essential services to our constituents, and they will be asked to help redefine our operations according to the most pressing priorities. Make no mistake, our residents, businesses, and visitors may notice a reduction in the services we’re able to offer, though I’m confident our resilient City will adapt, innovate, and even excel in the extraordinary times in which we find ourselves.
We’ve also been forced to make difficult reductions in our current and planned staffing levels. Unfortunately, our current workforce will be reduced by several filled positions, and those individuals have been informed of these decisions. Additionally, 73 currently vacant positions have been eliminated and will not be filled. We worked closely with our labor partners in identifying concessions – including furloughs – to mitigate additional position reductions. I sincerely appreciate the willingness of most of our labor partners who came to the table for those discussions, and the understanding members showed in doing what is best for the organization.
The process of delivering these actions has been gut-wrenching. I fully recognize these actions directly affect lives and workloads, and I am calling on our entire team to move forward with sensitivity and support of one another. Even as we work within our new financial restraints, I am committed to supporting our employees with as much of the resources as we have available to their work and development.
One thing is clear: we will not be the same City at the end of the year as when we started, though I believe we’ll be a better City than ever before. However, we will weather this storm if we work together and remain customer-focused, innovative, and accountable to our community.