BY JENNIFER CABRERA / JULY 31, 2019
At various city commission meetings over the past few months, several commissioners have voted against funding the budget or made motions to make cuts to the proposed budget. In every case, the commissioners were scolded for refusing to fund initiatives that they had, in most cases, unanimously voted for, and at least one of the commissioners fell in line to advance the proposed budget.
It is clear that several of the commissioners are feeling pressure to make some cuts so they can tell their constituents that they fought to keep property tax hikes to a minimum. We’d like to help them by proposing some budget cuts that will not cut any existing city services.
1. Delay new Special Events Coordinator position ($75k) – This is a new position to “facilitate better collaboration for special events and streamline the permitting process.” Although this sounds like it could help the citizens who organize special events, delaying it a year would not be noticed by the vast majority of the citizens of Gainesville.
2. Delay Executive Chief of Staff position ($150k) – As we reported in a previous column, this position is currently vacant, and the proposed organization chart inserts a layer of bureaucracy between several department heads (including GPD) and the City Manager. Perhaps we should let the new City Manager (the city is currently in the search process) decide whether to add this position for FY21.
3. Delay one equity position ($70k) – Two equity positions were added with no discussion after Commissioner Johnson’s equity presentation. The city should slow down, decide on a job description, hire one person, and see how it goes for a year. We don’t even know what these two people will be doing.
4. Cut equity expenditure in half ($150k) – The commission also added $300k for the new equity program, mainly to have funds available for the Equity Subcommittee. Again, no specifics were given about the need for these funds; maybe the committee can get by with $150k.
5. Delay Historic Preservation Planner ($40k) – Again, this is a new position that seems like a nice-to-have. I doubt this is a high priority for people living on fixed incomes, who will be hardest hit by the city’s increases in GRU rates, fire assessment fees, and property taxes.
6. Delay Rental Housing Implementation ($150k) – We’ve made no secret of our opposition to the city’s proposed rental housing policies; we believe they will make rental housing less affordable and hurt poor people.
7. Delete/delay Broadband Study ($50k) – We’ve also made no secret of our opposition to municipal broadband. The city should not spend more money on this.
Total: $685k. Delaying all of the equity expenditures would bring the total to $905k. As Mayor Poe keeps saying, these cuts won’t make a huge difference in the property tax dollar amounts, but making some cuts will show that the commissioners are listening to citizens who advocate for keeping costs as low as possible.