News from Patrick Flynn

Calm before the storm

The new administration stubbed its toe last week by announcing, or perhaps leaking, that it found another $9 million shortfall prior to advising any Assembly members.  Indeed, I first heard about it when a KTUU reporter asked me, on camera, at the conclusion of an interview on a completely different subject.  Apparently administration officials hadn’t read my post about the importance of the mayor and the Assembly working collaboratively, and somehow forgot that surprising your colleagues in this manner is a nifty way to gain a quick dose of enmity.

I’d note this isn’t unique to public officials, but don’t take my word for it – try the following experiment:

  1. Casually mention to your friend’s spouse/partner/significant other some little detail (e.g. a newly purchased boat or drinks with an ex-flame) your friend hadn’t quite found the opportunity to mention.
  2. Accidentally fail to convey to your friend that their spouse/partner/significant other is now aware of this previously unknown factoid.
  3. See what happens next.

But I digress.  What surprised me about this episode was that, as I noted previously, this is an administration loaded with experienced public servants, many of whom have probably forgotten more about protocol than I’ll ever know.  (That, and I’m a member of the Budget & Finance committee which, ostensibly, has some responsibility for budgetary issues.)  That said, I decided to chalk this one up to early-administration jitters and simply left a voice-mail and e-mail for OMB director Cheryl Frasca seeking more information.  To her credit she quickly consulted with the B&F chair, Jennifer Johnston, and they scheduled a committee meeting for Tuesday, July 28, to talk through some of the information.  Here’s a little about what we learned, mostly from a memo authored by Mayor Sullivan to Department Directors:

  • Since part of the “new” budget gap is caused by reduced revenues, the nine affected departments are tasked with determining whether portions of those projected shortfalls might be recovered during the remainder of the year.
  • All departments need to develop recommendations for cutting 1.5% of their expenditures in 2009, with a priority on savings that would carry forward to 2010
  • And, speaking of 2010, department heads will also develop next year’s budget under four scenarios:
  1. Flat funding – meaning all personnel costs increases would be absorbed with off-setting cuts elsewhere.
  2. 97% funding – same as above, with a 3% cut to boot.
  3. 95% funding – you’re good at math, you know what this means.
  4. 93% funding.
  • Finally, a “Framework for Budget Discussions:”

“As context for the recommendations you will develop within the above numbers, I ask that you discuss the impact in terms of services that your department programs will continue to deliver – and not simply what you no longer will do.” (Emphasis included in the original memo.)

After the departments do their work and meet with the mayor we’re slated to conduct another Budget & Finance committee meeting on Wednesday, August 12, to gather additional information and offer some feedback.  That should be interesting.

More cuts mean more people affected so here’s a bold prediction: given that I’m still getting complaints about cuts made earlier this year, mostly relating to reduced public transit and library hours, the black chair I occupy on Tuesday evenings is about to become somewhat (more) uncomfortable.  That’s okay, it comes with the job but I’d ask that concerns expressed to me try to address at least one of the following questions, which are similar to those posed previously:

  1. Where would you cut first and how would you explain those cuts to stakeholders?
  2. Which programs would you protect and how would you justify them to taxpayers?

With that, let’s get the conversation going!



P.S.  My apologies for last night’s “test” posts, the web trolls were busy hunting gremlins that popped up while I was trying to author this post!

This contribution was made on Friday, 31. July 2009 at 15:07 and was published under the category Coming events, Fiscal matters. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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