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John Celentano: Can city tighten belt to spare school cuts?

To the editor:

Regarding the proposed Proposition 2½ override: Why is it that the first thing we always hear about is that if the override does not pass, teachers and police officers will be laid off? Is it because this is the easiest or only way to close the budget gap?

Or is it because this generates an urgent and emotional response from parents and anyone concerned about public safety? Why is it we never hear that the result would be to lay off bureaucrats and administrators?

This letter is not an argument for or against the override. However, if for any reason the override does not pass, before police or teachers or worthwhile school programs are cut, are there alternatives that should be considered first? For example, from the proposed budget, could any of the following be used to reduce the budget gap?

The total of all the line items for overtime pay is $872,691, or 62 percent of the $1.4 million budget gap. Perhaps overtime could be eliminated or at least restricted.

Are there savings from closing the landfill? Where does the “Undesignated Fund Balance” of $737,776 in the Solid Waste Enterprise receipts come from?

In the Sewer Enterprise Fund Receipts section, what is the “Undesignated Fund Balance” of $1.28 million and where did it come from? It seems to be offset with a large increase in Sewer Line Replacement ($1.4 million compared to $400,000 in FY 2013) and unspecified “Site Improvements” costing $565,000. Are these all needed immediately or could some be postponed?

If the city is transferring to the state health plan starting in January, why doesn’t the budget reflect the $1.32 million in savings the mayor has projected, for the remaining three-quarters of the fiscal year?

Further, there are plans being considered for a boathouse on the river. Could this project and associated expense be postponed?

Maybe there is a little more belt-tightening that can be done before we start negatively affecting students and the public safety.

John Celentano


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