Band aid budgeting

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Jan 21, 2014

 

I was really disappointed in the way the city is conducting the cuts to the budget. The cuts seem to be temporary cuts that don’t address long term cuts in order to prevent another budget crisis in 2015. The city is still making it a practice of raiding other accounts to balance the budget.
 
The possibility of offering incentive packages to employees can be a slippery slope while using tax dollars. The possible incentives seem to defeat the purpose of trying to find ways to cut when the city has to give back something in return. 
 
The union contract is always worded for the benefit of the union and hardly allows any flexibility for the city. Waiting until the last minute to negotiate a new union contract always gives the union the upper hand because of the budget deadline. A professional contract negotiator is needed to give some flexibility to the city when looking at a tight budget. 
 
When private sector companies decide to cut, a plan for cuts is implemented. The companies do not allow the employees to barter for their jobs, nor, do private companies think about the impact the job loss will have on the employee. All the company cares about is operating within its budget so it can pay the bills. Having the employees, other than supervisors, dictate what is going to be cut and who is going to be laid off, gives the impression that lower level employees are in charge instead of the city manager. 
 
Taking the remaining $307,000 of deficit out of the general fund is not a way to declare a balanced budget. It doesn’t allow for extra general fund money to be used in case of emergencies throughout the year.
 
A third executive session is scheduled to take place. Will citizens be advised as to the necessity of such lengthy executive sessions? When executive sessions last longer than the regular meeting without any vote being made, the situation becomes a transparency problem.

Comments

Larry

Sharon,
Why don't you give this new commission a chance before you send them down the road. If you have so many good ideas I would encourage you to run for commission. It's very easy to criticize (I do it all the time) but a lot more difficult to find positive solutions.

BDupler

I agree with Larry, however I have to disagree with your statements in paragraph 3. I know of many unions that have bartered to save jobs. And in the case of my company, the impacts on the affected employees were considered.

When you have unions involved the management losses their ability to "be in charge".

OSUBuckeye59

Sharon,
Having worked in the private sector, primarily with one Fortune 100 employer for quite a few years, I would state senior management is aware of and sensitive to the impact of employees being laid off. My employer is extremely gracious in providing a generous severance package. And to be fair, many private sector companies are also careful in their lay-offs so as to avoid unwanted litigation, i.e. being sued, should a laid-off employee attempt to show the lay-off was discriminatory, as in the one example of a high % of employees laid off were while males over the age of 45. Private sector employers may not have union contract limitations but there's still potential litigious considerations that often parallel curbs written into union contracts.

Union contract negotiations, when bargained in good faith by both sides, should result in each side walking away with a feeling their key goals were met in the agreement. And even negotiations that start off with one or both sides stating certain demands won't be considered for negotiation can still result in a mutually agreed-to contract. Savvy negotiators remember a key Business acronym called BATNA: Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. What this terms means is the party having the best fall-back position to no agreement has the best bargaining position. When each party understands this, then each party also understands where they HAVE leverage, where they do NOT, and in the language of gambling, where it's a PUSH, meaning neither Party's BATNA has leverage.

As I've written in SR story responses previously, I assert the City Manager needs to develop & execute a Strategic Plan to provide for yearly financial health. A good Operations Manager, which is part and parcel of the role of City Manager, will build a Long Term Strategic plan that is successfully executed by a Short Term Operational plan. Following is an example of what I'm talking about: when I purchased a large old home several years ago, I developed a plan for how I would renovate it. One of the first rooms for renovation was the kitchen. Two years later when I renovated a bedroom above the kitchen, converting the bedroom into a bathroom, because of my planning two years earlier, the rough-in drains and water piping needing for the 2nd floor bath were in the floors and walls exactly where I wanted and needed them. So, too, should our City Manager similarly prepare for the future, insuring Revenues & Services will be available and properly funded, including having reserves as a part of a Risk Avoidance plan.

Leading & Managing the City of Sandusky doesn't have to be difficult. It just takes proper planning & execution by a disciplined Leader/Manager.

SamAdams

Holy crap, OSUBuckeye59! Any chance YOU could be our new City Manager?

OSUBuckeye59

SamAdams,
The City already has a Manager. :)

SamAdams

Indeed. But I was kind of hoping that next time around we'd get COMPETENT one...

OSUBuckeye59

But when is the "next time around"? The current City Manager just received a positive Performance Review, a finding that many of us question given verifiable data showing the CM performed below expectations. Why don't we have a detailed, balanced budget proposal, including alternative options considered but not recommended, from the City Manager? Why don't we have a Long Term Strategic Plan from the City Manager showing a path to Sustainable Revenue Growth? Why don't we have a Short Term Plan from the City Manager outlining Quarterly goals and success metrics in keeping with the Long Term Plan? Why don't we have an Active Risk Matrix developed and managed by the City Manager? Many of the Best Known Methods employed in the Private Sector can and should be implemented in the Public Sector. But it takes a Good Leader who can also be a Good Manager, including knowing the difference between the two. When I previously wrote it isn't hard, I didn't explain myself well enough. It is hard in that it takes someone with excellent communication skills, it takes time, it takes someone with excellent communication skills, it takes someone who understands how important it is to be both involved and be perceived as being involved in the community, it takes someone with excellent communication skills, it takes someone who realizes there really isn't any time one can over communicate what's happening in the City and what should be happening, and did I forget to mention it takes someone with excellent communication skills? :) As an aside, there's plenty of research that shows when decisions are made, even though there will always be some percentage of people not agreeing with a decision, far more people than not will better be able to accept the decision if they felt they were at least heard and had the opportunity to provide input. There will never be 100% acceptance of any decision, but it's important that people are aware of and knowledgeable in the process and details leading up to a decision.

IMHO, the City Manager needs to both Push and Pull the City in the right direction, and again, to know the difference between the two.

Sandusky could be so much more. It's just going to take a good Leader/Manager to create the Vision, develop the Plan supporting the Vision, execute to the Plan and make corrections/improvements along the way, making sure all are well informed and aware.

SamAdams

I agree with you wholeheartedly (though I refuse to consider a nebulous paragraph a "review" of any kind, good OR bad).

I'd still hire YOU tomorrow. :-) Or in June when we'll no longer be penalized when we don't renew the current "manager's" (I can't actually use the term she she doesn't exemplify the term) contract!

OSUBuckeye59

Thank you SamAdams, but even though I have tons of experience in the private sector, I have zero in the public sector.

richrs

That's okay OSU, the current city "manager" has zero experience also. So you couldn't do any worse.

RES

Sharon you are aware that the city agrees to the union contracts. I'm pretty sure the people in there have their marching orders from the bosses. And I'm pretty sure someone who knows about the city's financial status is in there too when this agreements are made. The reason we continually come in to financial crisis here every year it seems like is because the last commission and the one before did 0 to increase revenue. There is a third less employees now in the city but the demands are the same and in most cases more for each service. It's an income problem! Until that is fixed you'll have a subject every week to discuss Sharon. If it's not money it will be staffing, potholes, abandoned buildings, water lines, sidewalks. Oh sorry. That's right. They all need money, which the city seems content to not bring anymore in, which is obviously not enough.

SamAdams

A third fewer employees, no substantial change in the needs (according to you, they're the same or more — given the population decrease, I'd suggest they're the same at WORST), and yet you think there's an INCOME problem? Sounds a whole lot more like a SPENDING problem to ME!

RES

I agree the list of wasted spending is horribly long. With that being said the consistent behavior displayed by the history here would definitely be less felt if revenue we're increased. If you have a money shortage at home you don't sell your tools that fixes things or get rid of your security system or quit using the toilet. No you get more money in your pocket to support your needs at home.

SamAdams

And how, exactly, do you GET more money in your pocket? Unlike governments, none of us can walk into our boss' office and say, "Hey, I'm a little short these days, so you need to increase my salary by X per cent." No, we CUT BACK! And that's what the City needs to do.

OSUBuckeye59

Agree 100%. Finance 101: the Balance Sheet must equal out on both sides.

RES

Get another job= more income

RES

Increase admissions tax. Increase Lodging tax. Bring back the parking tax. This is a tourism city. Make sure the in season income can hold over the off season costs and then some.

OSUBuckeye59

Sandusky is indeed primarily dependent upon tourism, but I argue the City needs to develop additional sources of Revenue. Raising admissions & lodging taxes along with bringing back a parking tax could have longer term negative effects. One example: raising the lodging tax within the City might result in tourists staying outside of Sandusky where the lodging is cheaper and accommodations better because the hotel owner is not having to pay a high Sandusky city lodging tax. The supply demand curve for Tourism is elastic, meaning at some point alternatives will be cheaper. Additionally, growing other sources of revenue insures that if for whatever reason the tourism industry tanks, Sandusky would have these other sources of revenue to fall back on. I argue Sandusky really does need to grow beyond tourism as it could then grow ancillary sources of revenue.

RES

Do you honestly think people are gonna look at the bill and say wow the lodge tax is 6% here now. We better find somewhere else to stay. They're gonna stay as close as they can to the park. They're paying all they are paying for everything. Additional tax on their room will not be the state that broke the camels back. Also, I strongly doubt the tourism market tanking. I don't see Cedar Point packing up and moving the coasters somewhere else. Unless the lake raises 40 ft and takes them somewhere. 100% agreement on other revenue sources. Better to have many than rely on one. But why not improve on the one to allow appropriate growth of anything new.

OSUBuckeye59

You're probably right that the vast majority people aren't going to look closely at a bill and see a 10% or higher lodging tax. I still argue that if Sandusky continues to hike taxes on Cedar Point, and if Cedar Point sees any decline in revenue & income, I wouldn't be surprised if CP comes knocking on Sandusky's door asking for reductions in tax or incentives. I would still like to see Sandusky explore other avenues or revenue.

T. A. Schwanger

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I may be incorrect but I believe Sandusky is at the maximum Lodging Tax percentage.

As for the Amusement Admissions Tax, state law allows the City to set the tax at 8%--we are currently at 3%.

With the amount of income tax, Amusement Admission's Tax and Lodging Tax Sandusky collects, there shouldn't be an issue of providing essential services.

I submit Sandusky does not have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem. The Finance Department explained much of the debt is state mandated such as Waste Treatment upgrades. Much of the water needing treating is coming from outside of Sandusky.

Taxpayers continue to foot the bill on a Central Fire Station (voters turned down a ballot issue), the City Service Complex, upgrades to City Hall and the Cold Creek Crossing (Yost)infrastructure/street project among other debt producing projects. Sandusky is so far in debt, it's no wonder essential services, such as street improvements and removal of trees, are waning.

OSUBuckeye59

T.A., thank you for the information.

As for Sandusky not being able to fund street improvements and tree removal, to name two, the longer the City waits to not fund, the higher the cost will eventually be. Especially with street improvement costs. Additionally, one would think City Leaders would address the public as to why the Central Fire Station, City Service Complex, the City Hall upgrades and CCC project need funding when the majority of the public voted otherwise.

Communication is so very key when it comes to serving the public.

Darkhorse

Don't worry, there is a tax increase on the way.