9/23/2011Posted by MJ
The LUSJ reported that Mayor Tucker will be seeking some union concessions as the budget process moves forward:
Mayor Mike Tucker’s administration will approach all five city employee unions asking for concessions in health care benefits in order to stave off a double-digit tax rate increase, layoffs or both.Notable is that the rate increase would have been higher with out the increase in valuation of the city. Not that it really means much. When it comes down to it, the budget $$ value is the budget $$ value and we all have to pay into it.
After talking with department heads about their 2012 budget requests the past few weeks, members of the Common Council on Wednesday had their first look at hard numbers — total expenses, income and impact on the tax rate if every department gets what it says it needs to function.
The numbers weren’t pretty.
Even after revaluation, which raised citywide taxable property value to $714 million from $635 million, the preliminary general budget drives a gag-inducing 17 percent increase in the city tax rate...
The biggest cost are employees and benefits. Cutting all the things around them will cost us more than the small savings we get. Jack Smith is quoted with a sentiment I have shared:
Jack Smith, 2nd Ward alderman, doesn’t believe a zero increase is possible, or wise. Layoffs will put the city on a “slippery slope” to reducing services, he said, especially if they’re in departments whose services are “felt” daily: streets, forestry and building inspection, for example.The biggest issue is medical benefits. As nice as the 2% cap is, it is no help when medical premiums are increasing in the double digits.
...Average pay raises of 3 to 4.5 percent for nearly all employees are not subject to change, as they were given in writing through 2012 in five union contracts. Fringe benefits — from vacation time, longevity payments and clothing allowances to city-paid health insurance, disability, Social Security and state pension contributions — aren’t much subject to change either, as they’re negotiated with the unions or required by the state.We as a city need a plan to get investment going again. Otherwise we will always be facing tax rate increases as the budget grows and we are left with nothing new to pay into it. The weight comes unbearable for those who remain and the downward inertia continues. No different than the salary stagnation that many residents may be feeling themselves.
One of the biggest expected line item increases in the 2012 budget is in medical spending.
In the general fund, which covers all departments except water and sewer, Budget Director Dick Mullaney is penciling in a 15 percent/$600,000 increase, to $4.7 million for insurance for all workers and over 100 retirees. When water and sewer workers and retirees are included, the health tab could rise to $5.9 million.
Fifteen percent over this year’s tab is a ballpark figure only, as Community Blue hasn’t confirmed its 2012 rates to the city yet, Mullaney said...