City Councilman Tony Young, who leads the council’s Budget and Finance Committee, recently sent a memo to his fellow council members seeking their ideas for saving money in the upcoming budget year.

Young told me that he’s interested in stockpiling savings from the 2009-10 budget year for the 2010-11 year, when the city’s annual pension payment is expected to swell and the city’s budget gap is expected to reach $100 million, according to the city’s independent budget analyst.

In the process of identifying savings, Young is essentially seeking to steal the mantle of financial reform from Mayor Jerry Sanders. He noted that the mayor is viewed as more fiscally disciplined than at least the previous council. While Young doesn’t think that necessarily reflected reality, he acknowledged that the council — at least in the past — dealt with the budget “a little more parochially.”

“It seems like people were jockeying for their own particular projects,” Young said, “so we were divided in that respect.”

Young thinks the new council is viewed differently and he’d like for the council to be more fiscally disciplined than the administration.

“I think that’s a healthy competition,” he said.

Young said what he has in mind is finding savings, not cuts to services. “We want to make sure there’s no extra fat anywhere, no extra money squirreled away,” he said.

Councilman Carl DeMaio also said it’s important for the council to identify more savings, saying he thinks the city’s sales and hotel tax projections are overly optimistic.

“I would love the council have almost a race to the top of ways to save money,” he said. “That would certainly be a departure from the past.”

He thinks the city shouldn’t spend down more than $20 million in reserves, but bank them in case tax revenues are less than expected or if the cash-strapped state government raids the city’s coffers. DeMaio said his budget proposals will include savings for the 2011 fiscal year.

He said he fears the Mayor’s Office is “banking on two things” to balance that budget — “an economic miracle … and second, being able to frankly cook the books — pressure the pension board into being able to water down assumptions,” DeMaio said.

RANI GUPTA

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