Mountain View Voice

Opinion - April 17, 2009

Balancing the budget will take sacrifices

We're not sure if other managers and rank-and-file city employees will voluntarily join Kevin Duggan in giving up his cost-of-living adjustment and salary increase to help close the city's $6 million budget gap. But they should.

To be sure, at $250,000-plus a year, the city manager's gesture is more symbolic than truly painful. By comparison, the city's lower-paid workers are undoubtedly in great need of whatever salary boost they can get. Even the middle and upper managers — the 200 or so city employees who make over $100,000 a year — probably are much more reliant on those raises.

But the idea is sound. Without counting benefits, compensation alone for all city employees has gone up 16 percent ($8.5 million) in the last two years. It is easy to see why city employees should volunteer to at least give up the cost-of-living increases due to kick in this July.

Just like a private business that must make ends meet, the city is facing tough decisions during the economic downturn. Costs keep going up and Duggan estimates the city's income will remain stagnant for the next few years. If personnel costs continue to rise and nothing is done, the city could have a $15 million deficit by 2012, and will either have to use reserves to pay its bills, lay off workers or cut basic services.

Another course, as the city manager suggests, is to hold back on pay and cost-of-living increases for as long as possible. Coupled with other possible cuts that he laid out to the City Council last week, the city could conceivably bring its spending into line with revenues without cutting positions.

The council members, at least three of whom were less than enthusiastic about the city manager's plans, want more information, as do the city's unions. But we fear that few alternatives to painful sacrifices will be found.

If the city manager can eliminate at least a good chunk of the expected deficit by convincing most city employees to forgo the pending increases, it will be tremendously helpful in balancing next year's budget. We urge the city's employees to facilitate the process, as they did in 2003-04.

This year the situation is just as drastic, if not more so. City employees have enjoyed substantial pay increases during the last few years, and today, with few other options before us, it seems appropriate for them to make sacrifices where possible to help Mountain View weather this economic crisis.


Posted by Tony, a resident of Castro City
on Apr 22, 2009 at 11:00 pm

Why don't we just stop paying everyone overtime? Has anyone looked into that? Why do city staff make as much if not more in overtime. Maybe they just stop working overtime, we expect things to slow down a little, and everyone pays a little price.

Posted by Jack, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Everyone needs to pay attention to the city council. The unions are involved in this decision, they have to be. And I'm sure the unions have made friends with the some on the council. This is a very powerful bargaining chip for them. They can ask for anything just to get consent on forgoing the increases.

"Well, if we get xxxxxx, we'll give up the increases."

If the Council person from your district is not properly representing you, you better make them aware of it. If they continue to go against what you feel is not right, you show up at the city council meetings and speak your mind. I will. We cannot allow city council members to run their own agenda. They are our representatives, we hired them to give us a voice at City Hall. I've lived in this city too long to watch it fall to greedy politicians. This cannot be about what's best for the unions, it must about what's best for the whole.

We are in unprecendented times. Nobody has a map. These are the days that change the world. This is the time that your voice can make a difference. Don't let these people run away with our government.

Posted by Daniel DeBolt, Mountain View Voice Staff Writer
on Apr 23, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Daniel DeBolt is a registered user.

The overtime paid to police and firefighters is done to save on the cost of training and providing benefits for additional positions. The overtime for firefighters actually saved the city almost $1 million last year, according to John Miguel, firefighter's association president. He adds that cutting overtime or reducing positions could lower response times to 911 calls.

Posted by oldschgrl, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 24, 2009 at 10:09 am

Big sacrifices from the City staff, including the City Manager. But not Public Safety, heavens no, i can bet they don't give anything up. Just another slap in the face to City employees and to the City Council who backs them up. City Council should give up their pay, used to be it was a privilege to be a Council member and it was a measly fee they accepted. Now they are paid to do a job where 'they don't understand the budget' and believe Public Safety's cries that money is being hidden - grow up aleady, it's been years they've been crying the same tune. Time to give something up to the City that 'hired' you, yes hired you to "protect and serve" and not accuse and whine.

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