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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Opinion: It's ALWAYS A Good Time To Talk Budget!

Order By Ald. O’Donovan submitted at the August 26th Board of Alderman Meeting:
That This Board Begin Financial/Budget Discussions with the Administration and the School Committee to Prepare for Governor Patrick’s 9-C, Cuts (Coming This Fall), Any and All Union Contract Negotiations And/Or Arbitration Issues and Potential Shortfalls Anticipated for the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Process.

The budget should be a constant focus for the Board of Alderman, rather than the June scramble it has turned out to be. It seems that, once under pressure, rash decisions are often made to achieve a balanced budget before deadline. These decisions are provoked by desperation and leave one blind to the significant impact that it may have on the residents and employees of the city of Somerville.

After reading the order submitted by Alderman O'Donovan, I proposed a monthly to quarterly expense and revenue reporting system to Alderman Heuston (who chairs the finance committee) that could be applied to all city departments. This system would give the BOA an opportunity to see, dollar for dollar, how much it costs these departments to function properly throughout the year and shed some light on what departments can be expanded/consolidated or where modifications can be made to save money and/or increase revenue.

This system could also give the BOA an opportunity to troubleshoot ideas and goals to stop significant money loss. For example, the parking regulations change may have plugged part of the deficit last year, however, it caused an even larger gap this year. If a system was in place to monitor the expenditures v.s the gains, it would have been very apparent that this was a long term decision that only brought short term results.

By bringing contract negotiations to the table early, compromises can be made that would benefit workers and keep the city running smoothly without pressure, emotion, or tempers. This would allow the necessary time and conversation to take place that goes in to making these relationships work successfully.

It is more obvious than ever that the state and federal government are going to do less and less to help cities and towns navigate these difficult financial times. By having budget conversations early and often, Somerville can begin to rely on Somerville to overcome whatever obstacles and shortfalls that may present themselves.

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