What's 10 Percent Between Friends?
Sometime in the next two months there's a chance that local aid from the state is going to be cut. Some people say it's going to happen, some people think it's going to happen, pretty much everyone hopes it's not going to happen.
The buzz is building around 10 percent as a cut figure. No one is quite sure if this true or not -- and no one knows if that's even an accurate number.
But it's important to pay attention to that number and that background now, as the City Council wrangles with funding (or not) union contracts this week. For the councilors thinking about not voting for the contracts, the problems with those potential local aids are their chief source of concern (along with perks, although we discussed that last week).
First, let's dispel the myth that a 10 percent cut in local aid would equal a 10 percent cut in the city's services. The city government receives a grand total of $11.8 million in local aid, most of it in the $10.6 million in lottery aid, state aid to fill in for lottery decreases, and additional assistance. A 10 percent cut of the city's government aid would be about $1.2 million, or about 5 percent of the $51.9 million spent on city services.
Now, on the school side, a 10 percent cut of all local aid would equal about $4.2 million in a $46 million budget ($44.1 million not counting Monty Tech). That's a far tougher cut (just ask the 25-kid kindergarten class teachers how they feel about it). But honestly, not relative to this conversation. I can hyperventilate over that later.
OK, back to the city-side budget. Of that $52 million in play, $22 million is wrapped up in employee benefits. Let's say you're whacking 5 percent out of that. How many employees do you have to lay off to save $1 million? )Honestly, that's a question. I don't know the answer.) The next biggest area is the cops, at $6.2 million. That would be a $300,000 cut there. Then debt at $5.3 million, but I don't see how that's cut. Fire is next, also at $5.3 million. That's a $250,000-plus cut there. Next is DPW, at $3.3 million, or $150,000-plus. Would 5 percent be cut across the board? Who knows? Probably not.
The council has a bit of tough decision here. It would go a long, long way for the city to settle these contracts. Would the few hundred thousand it would cost to do it be devastating to the city if local aid cuts happen? What's the level of cuts, however, where it would be bad to approve these contracts? 10 percent? 5 percent? Anything? Does anyone really, truly, know what's going to happen with local aid? (And if someone says they do, they're either lying or have a good Tarot card reader around.) It's tough to not consider potential local aid cuts, but it's also tough to vote against something based on something that might or might not happen.
Anyway, if you decide to watch this go down, there's your background on where things stand.