Council Candidates on Budget Cuts

Brent Finnegan -- October 14th, 2008

This is part on the ongoing Q&A series with City Council candidates. We’ll be emailing candidates questions and posting answers periodically throughout the month of October. All responses are listed unedited, in the order in which they were received.

If the country-wide economic slowdown continues and state revenues to the city are cut, what gets cut or should get targeted first? Is anything off the table (safe from cuts)?

Dave Wiens: As we all know, the state has already cut its support to the city. This will without question cause some tough questions to be asked. As I said above, if cuts must be made, they should be made across the board while trying, as much as this is possible, to maintain the integrity of the programs and services provided. The only programs that must be safe from cuts are those that are responsible for public safety.
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Roger Baker: I don’t think anything should be safe from cuts. First look at areas state revenues are used to support.
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Charles Chenault: I guess officially nothing is ever off the table, but in my mind, public safety (fire and police) and education are off of the table as are employee salaries and benefits. This corresponds with the governor’s recent pronouncement in the public safety and education areas for the remainder of the fiscal year.. One way to look at this is that the local program receiving the funding cut actually suffer the cut. Another example, each year we set aside over $1 million for our repaving program. This repaving could be postponed for one year so that $1 million could be used elsewhere. There are other maintenance programs that could be treated similarly. Right now our reserve fund is sitting on $15 million. If there ever was a time to use some of this money to cover shortfalls, now seems right to me. Now is not the time to panic. To do so would be to ignore the uniqueness and resiliency of our local economy. I remember when I ran four and one-half years ago, we were facing some of the same budget issues on the local level, but we have survived to face it again on a more systemic scale. We continue to be strong locally.
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Richard Baugh: More important than my ability to prognosticate is for me to explain my guiding principles and priorities. In tough economic times we have to focus first on local government’s core responsibilities. These would be health and safety. This includes some less visible and less glamorous areas, such as water quality and infrastructure, which would need to be the highest priorities.

In short, we have to make every effort not to compromise on funding issues that are related to the health and safety of our citizens. And the further funding requests get away from these core responsibilities, and more in the direction of things that may be nice but are not essential, the more they are likely to be the places where I will be looking to make any necessary budget cuts.

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Kai Degner: For me, education is off the table for budget cuts. The last thing to do is sacrifice long-term benefits because of a short-term crunch.
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We have not yet received responses to this question from Tracy Evans, Rodney Eagle, or J.M. Snell. We will add their responses as we receive them. A total of eight candidates (including two incumbents) are running for three available seats on City Council.

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2 Responses to “Council Candidates on Budget Cuts”

  1. Renee says:

    “I don’t think anything should be safe from cuts. First look at areas state revenues are used to support.” is Baker’s entire answer? I would have liked to hear from all candidates at least which areas are most important to them and would be “safest” from cuts even if all of them technically could be cut when the need arises. I want to know, what will they stand up for?

    At least the other 3 posted (so far) attempted to explain their stance on certain funded programs.

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