Budget cuts, and the elephant in the room
Predictably, the Mayor chose to cut the highly visible fireworks from the budget in response to the Board of Representatives only granting him a 1.6% budget increase (instead of the 2.4% increase he requested).
The Advocate dutifully reports on the usual hand-wringing from the parties on the virtues of More Spending or Less Spending. The Republicans (and Anzelmo Graziosi) argue the Mayor's office is bloated and further cuts can be found without reducing city services. The Democrats respond that the budget came in tight and we need to provide services to our residents. Every year, just rinse, lather and repeat.
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Have you ever wondered why the public debates about municipal spending are so stale? It's because the real drivers of city spending (and accordingly, our taxes) are never examined. The Advocate mentioned them in passing. Did you catch it? "Most of the budget is fixed costs the city must pay by contract, state mandate or other obligations, [Mayor] Martin said. Those costs include salaries, benefits, debt-service payments, and pension payments . . ."
Remember, 80% of the city's budget is fixed by these obligations. But somebody created these obligations. They are not grafted irremovably onto the city charter to be borne by the taxpayers in perpetuity. If these obligations are the effect, what is the cause?
Two questions therefore need to be answered: (1) who is responsible for the city's contracts with its public servants; and (2) are these contracts fair to the taxpayers?
In the coming months, we at Team Stamford will be exploring these questions. We look forward to sharing our findings with you.