It has been well reported that The City of Salida has cut $340,000 from its 2010 budget. One example is State Parks inability to come up with the cash for the Milk Run Trail. This allows Salida to reduce the budget by the matching funds the Council had committed to that project.
Other cuts occurred when budgeted funds for specific projects were far more than needed to complete each project. $8,000 was budgeted for the underwater pool lighting. The actual cost was about $4,000. This adds that amount to our 2010 budget.
The most difficult budget reductions to make are those regarding City employee compensation. Looking at past records, since 2002 the City employees have had four raises. The first three were attempts to keep up with the cost of living in Salida. They did not come close to fulfilling that purpose. The last raise increased pay to most departments but not all. This raise was largely in response to the fact that Salida’s employees were about 30% behind comparable jobs in similar cities. The highest pay increase was less than one half of the aforementioned 30%. This year we are once again placing a wage freeze on City staff. This freeze makes up approximately 1/7th of the budget cut. Recreating the recent employment history of Salida we are still operating with fewer employees than the time frame prior to 2002. As many recall 2002 was a year of severe budget shortfalls and a large number of City employee layoffs.
The financial blow up has resulted in two years of budget cuts. At this time the cuts total about $700,000. Financial forecasters lead many of us in the city to conclude revenue will continue to decline and there might be a need to cut the 2010 budget further.
These cuts should be of concern to all the residents of Chaffee County. If revenue continues to decline services will become more dramatically effected. Until now most of our cuts have been relatively invisible. Should City income worsen all of us will start to see direct effects.
Countrywide there is evidence that we as citizens do not link the taxes we pay with the services we receive. We treat governmental services similar to walking into the clothing store and asking for ten pair of pants and, by the way, someone’s grand kid is going to pay for them 10 years from now. This is simply unfair and unsustainable.
When we pay taxes we get something. It might not be seen as a directly benefiting that particular taxpayer. But the pool of money that is created should go to necessary projects that are for the greater good. When I was in school everyone paid property tax to fund the buildings, teachers and materials necessary to teach me what I needed to know. I have no children, but understand that the tax I pay that goes to the schools is a continuation of the implied contract I made when I accepted my public education that was funded by the entire community not just my parents.
Obviously, not all citizens agree with what their taxes fund. What I say to you is get involved. When I find myself frustrated by what my tax money is getting spent on I either did not express my desires well or did not make a strong enough effort to get others to agree with my view. We do not win them all in a democracy. A majority stills gets its way. However, the minority can sway opinion only if it coherently and truthfully states why the majority view should be changed.
To state the obvious, we are in challenging financial times. It is not time for the glib sound bite clichés that have little thought and offer no real solutions. We cannot spend money we do not have. You the citizen will decide if you want to throw a bit more money in the pot or do you want less governmental services. You will have plenty of opportunities to act one way or the other this coming November.
Chuck Rose, Mayor of the City of Salida