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Remember the Kumbaya on the city’s budget we reported last week between City Council and the Mayor’s Office? It took a hit Monday afternoon.
Council had set aside a couple hours to review new budget projections based on the first quarter of this year. These figures, which include both revenue and expenditure assumptions, would be the most recent official budget data. It needs the numbers to determine how to plug the gaping hole in next year’s budget.
The Mayor’s Office wasn’t ready. Financial Management Director Nader Tirandazi said he was reviewing the numbers and would have a report ready by the end of the day Tuesday.
Council wasn’t pleased. It led to this exchange between Tirandazi and Councilwoman Donna Frye:
Frye: I mean I guess you can’t force someone to do a report. But it’s real unfortunate that we’ve set aside all this time and now I don’t know when we’re going to be able to spend the time we need to review it. It just seems there’s more to the story than meets the eye.
Tirandazi: There’s absolutely nothing behind the story. The story is that just we have a lot to do in (financial management). We were just not able to look at the department budget reductions and get the first quarter out. It was all coinciding with each other. We needed to make sure all the information the departments were using for one matches the other. It just takes us another week to vet through that process to make sure we have the right information to present to council. There’s nothing else behind that story.
Frye: Well, I guess I just don’t believe you.
Council expects to hear the item next Monday.
Meantime, Councilman Tony Young told me Monday that the Mayor’s Office might not participate in a new commission Young developed to examine city revenue sources. The council rejected the mayor’s nominee to the commission, Phil Blair, late last month along with one other candidate because of concerns about their lobbying. Young said the commission will move ahead with or without a mayoral nominee.
“We have to keep this going forward and that’s what we’re going to do,” Young said. “People will start to understand that this is the exact thing that this city should be doing. It’s looking at how we can be more competitive and looking for new ideas.”
A couple more budget-related tidbits.
- We’re going to start referring to the budget deficit as $200 million until further notice. In Tirandazi’s conversation with Frye today, he mentioned that revenues were off about $10 million since the last projection. That puts the working deficit at $190 million, he told me afterwards. Since the Office of the Independent Budget Analyst has already projected the deficit to be $200 million, and the Mayor’s Office close is now close, we figured that’s the best number to use for now. Previously, we’ve been going with $179 million, the mayor’s estimate in October.
- To provide some closure on my coverage of city vacant positions last week, I also spoke with Tirandazi about the mayor’s comments that eliminating 800 positions would result in a $20 million savings. Tirandazi estimated cutting all those positions would free up $30 million toward this year’s budget gap. He emphasized that although cutting 800 positions would wipe out the city’s current stock of vacancies, more will come as the city doesn’t hire replacements for workers who leave. His $30 million estimate takes that fact into account.
Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly said Council expected to hear the financial report on Tuesday. We regret the error.
— LIAM DILLON