(Editor?s note: This is the third and final of a series of stories about issues in the Petaluma City Council race. Comments by candidates are taken from their responses to an Argus-Courier questionnaire.)
In the third and final part of an Argus-Courier questionnaire, the six candidates for Petaluma City Council responded to questions about the city budget shortfall, how Petaluma can increase revenues and Measure K on the November ballot.
The candidates are Spence F. Burton, Samantha Freitas, David Glass, Mike Healy, Karen Nau and Tiffany Ren?.
What would you do to address the city?s current budget crisis?
Glass: There are two challenges that are paramount in this endeavor. We must bring the budget into line in the short term without doing harm to our revenue prospects in the long term.
Therefore I would want the best available information from the city manager, department heads, community input, and a carefully crafted Community Impact Report, which would identify beneficial projects to bring to town.
This approach would help us make sure we don?t hurt ourselves in the long term while meeting the short-term challenge.
In the short term, we simply can?t afford business as usual. We are going to have to go line by line through the budget and ask a fundamental question: Is the expenditure the best possible expenditure? Can the expenditure be postponed or eliminated without hurting our long term growth prospects?
If it can be postponed it needs to be considered for a postponement.
Fortunately, we have reserves that tide us over for a little time and will allow us to make prudent decisions that are not made out of panic.
Wherever we cut expenditures, we should first analyze the benefits of the expenditure in the past and what we will lose with the cutback. If the long-term loss outgains the short-term savings, perhaps we find a different route to our goal.
Healy: Unlike either Washington, which happily runs massive deficits, or Sacramento, which relies heavily on gimmicks such as borrowing future revenues, the city needs to have an honest budget with revenue and spending in balance.
With the economy slowing, there is little alternative in the near term but to reduce spending levels to match revenues. This is particularly true in the near term, before any of the methods by which the city could grow its revenue base can be effective.
Nau: Budget reductions including staff and cost reductions where needed. Apply for grants that can improve our city? s infrastructure. Ensure we do not spend more than we take in.
Ren?: I would encourage our city unions and our city manager to work through the numbers to address how the city can weather this crisis with the least impact of services for the community and for the quick recovery of those services when revenues are stable again. Early retirement offers may help achieve a fair outcome.
The city must also collect on any uncollected development bonds or liens or place them in collection. We must pick the low-hanging fruit of what is owed to the city while addressing how to increase revenue.
Where possible, we should see where starting capital improvement projects will allow billing of intergovernmental charges for city services. We do not want to reduce city jobs to the point that we cannot move forward on our capital improvements.