Former City Councilman Tom White, who also served as liaison to the legislative body, challenges City Council members to be watchdogs in the upcoming budget process. From White:
It’s that time of year again. Lennie has provided the City Charter passage detailing the process for submittal of the proposed budget by the mayor to the City Council. Many OIB posters have expressed concern about the ability of City Council members to be involved in this process.
I was a member of the first full council that had budget responsibility as a result of charter revision in 1988. The council’s budget committee was led by a practicing attorney with an accounting degree and a bank officer with an MBA. We brought experience and academic credentials to the table. My, how things have changed. Another of those changes is the cost associated with the city council that is charged to taxpayers. When I was on the city council, the only direct cost budgeted was a stipend of $500 per member, a total budget of $10,000. Based on the current budget of the ‘Legislative Department’ and (Council President) Tom McCarthy’s legislative liaison in the City Clerk’s office, that cost has risen to over $345,000.
In 1992 the City Council, sensitive to the measures being taken to reduce costs, including layoffs, made a statement. We cut our stipend by 50%. The entire direct cost of the City Council became $5,000.
What has the City Council been doing with taxpayers’ money? Can we look forward to seeing reports filed detailing costs and justification for their recent junket to Washington DC? See here.
Will this council make a statement to assure city employees and taxpayers they are participating in the effort to reduce costs or will they continue to be spectators going along for the ride? How much will they reduce their stipend and ‘legislative department’ budget to help mitigate layoffs and a tax increase? As JML says, time will tell.