The most egregious budget cuts involve eliminating 2 positions: a part time assistant for the Director of Tourism & Economic Development and the Director of Planning. Neither cut saves the city a significant amount of money ($10,000 for the assistant, about $14,000 for the planner). The end result is a decrease in city services even though there was plenty of money in the budget to accommodate these positions. We are also a city without a city planner, which should be an embarrassment instead of a prudent, budget conscious decision.
Both decisions were made for totally political reasons. The mayor, and the aldermen who do whatever he says, have wanted to get rid of our planner, Amy Nelson, for several months. 3 aldermen and the mayor expressed a desire to get rid of her on a number of occasions. They didn't like Amy and wanted her gone, even if it meant that the city would be without a key staff position. Mission accomplished...but the city is much worse off as a result.
At the meeting when the planner position was cut NOT ONE SINGLE ALDERMAN would speak to why we should make this move. This tells me that nobody could think up a reason other than they simply didn't want Amy on the payroll despite her raising over $175,000 in grant money for the city and doing a terrific job as planner. The mayor actually praised Amy for being instrumental in securing a Great Places in NC award all the while knowing that she was about to be terminated. Personnel decisions are the province of the city manager. If Amy was doing a good job he would have the option of firing her. That was not the case. The city manager put the removal of her position on the list of potential cuts because, I strongly believe, the mayor pressured him to do so.
The part time assistant for the Director of Tourism was critical in developing and completing the new visitor's center and museum at the Garrison House. Now, the Director of Tourism (Cindy Brochure) must run the center and store, account for all cash transactions and accounting, as well as work on initiatives to increase the number of visitors to our city. This simply cannot be done by one person.
The individual who was in that position of part time assistant has extensive experience with historical museums. She was invaluable in creating our beautiful new visitors center and museum and could have been instrumental in developing the changing displays that the museum hopes to offer so visitors and residents can enjoy multiple visits to our newest showcase. Now we'll have one person doing the job of 2. This is a recipe for failure. Just when we are finally getting benefits from having a director of Tourism, the mayor and his supporters are cutting back in a department that focuses on the economic life blood of our city.
The ultimate plan is to eliminate the tourism department. Business owners in town will not be pleased about this eventual development as they have benefited from this departments progress. The businesses have finally been brought together by Cindy and they are working together for the benefit of all businesses in town. In the next budget--if the mayor and his supporters have their way--the position of Director of Tourism will be on the chopping block. No city planner. No tourism department. How does that make our city better?
At the budget meeting when all the cuts were decided, I made a presentation that clearly pointed out that the city's projected revenues would cover the operating expenses. Many of the budget cuts actually involved putting money away to spend on specific capital improvement projects that we will be taking up during this fiscal year. Now, we are actually in a position where our projected revenues will be greater than our operating expenses. We are not a for-profit company in the private sector. We are a city that provides services to our citizens. This budget squeezes a "profit" out of a situation by cutting city services when we could easily afford them.
If any of this bothers you I strongly recommend that you tell the mayor, the aldermen, and even speak up at a future meeting. The city is going in the wrong direction. It is going according to the agenda developed by the mayor and put forth by his blind supporters on the board. I sincerely hope folks remember this when they go to vote in 2013.