During the budget study sessions last week, City Manager John Szerlag answered a question about future cuts with a metaphor.
He said that up to this point, the city has hunted all the elephants it could find. Now there are only rabbits left. The essential message is that all the big, impactful cuts have been made. What's left to cut is small...less meaningful...harder to get in sight and cut.
The elephants that were most recently hunted yielded a $1.9 million dollar bounty. That's on top of all the cuts we've talked about for the last year, which included the following:
-- the elimination of 1/3 of the city employees
-- the 10% cuts to the rest of the work force IN ADDITION to all previous cuts
-- the near elimination of the Parks and Rec department
-- the elimination of the library funding (thankfully saved by a new millage voted in by the electorate)
-- elimination of the museum and nature center (funded mainly by private donations) from the budget
-- the spin-off of the Community Center to be a self-funding enterprise
-- the privatization of golf courses
--the privatization of the building department
-- other cuts that have rendered the city to a leaner, cheaper and stepped-down version of what we previously were.
All of that puts us where find ourselves today: operating leaner than ever in recent history, down to 1978 police levels and on "reactive" status vs. "proactive," not enough employees to provide the service level we've always had, programs cut, and quality-of-life venues on life support.
There are no more $1.9 million elephants out there that won't hurt. A lot.
There is always talk of privatizing the police -- the largest part of our budget. That would be a devastating blow to our city. We've already lost what made the police force the best around. In fact, the schools now have to provide security out of their budget to pay for what the Troy Police used to provide. Guess where the schools get their money?
Guess what gets cut when they have to pay for something the taxes used to cover?
Your child's education.
There has also been talk of operating part-time as a city. Janice Daniels has even been quoted as saying we don't NEED a full-time city. Employees are already supposed to be taking furlough days...though many don't actually stay home on those unpaid days. There is simply too much to be done. And can you imagine if we received even LESS service for our tax dollar? Already some of the loudest anti-tax, anti-government voices are complaining if they don't receive the same, high-quality, stellar service we used to enjoy. You heard it all last winter when there wasn't enough money for 24-hour now removal. It's always something. For example, check out this discussion led by Cristian Teodoridis, one of the losing school board candidates from last fall, on Councilman Dave Henderson's PUBLIC Facebook page (that's a whole blog issue on its own):
I don't see how anyone who has fought so hard against any recent millage increases, watched the cutting that has taken place, and seen the devastation of the budget can sincerely complain because he didn't get a personal notice that his driveway was going to be next in an ongoing project.
You get what you pay for, sir...or rather...you don't get what you are unwilling to pay for.
So we can hunt rabbits from now on...try to keep cutting ourselves out of inevitable bankruptcy if revenues don't increase. Heck, we can even try to do what we do in private school -- ask the end-users to donate stuff. Residents can bring in Kleenex, pencils, toilet paper, paper towels...whatever we need here in Troy!
Or maybe...just maybe...an educated electorate can rise up and stand for what is right. We can remember that Troy has ALWAYS been run in a fiscally responsible way.
We can SAVE TROY.
(Let's start be recalling Janice Daniels...)