ACES Supports the Ashland City Manager’s Call to Depts to Cut their Budgets 5-10%

Budget Excesses are Finally Being Addressed
Don’t blame Ashland city Manager Joe Lessard for any upcoming city government services reductions that may occur.
He’s just the messenger for the five percent budget cuts facing the Police and Fire Departments and up to 10 percent in the parks, community development, public works and city administration budgets in the fiscal year beginning July 1.
As Mr. Lessard outlined in a memo to city department heads, the city is facing a budget deficit that “is not a one-time event.  It’s ‘structural’ in that you have to look at how your operations are going to work overtime, to live within our means.”
The city’s financial problems have been building for the last three biennial budgets – a time, when Mayor Stromberg and members of the City Council were in denial of the budgetary facts and continued to spend and spend.  At a time when a string of city administrators and finance directors may have been sounding warnings in private but didn’t take their concerns to the public.
And, it was a time when repeated efforts by some citizen members of the Budget Committee to reduce or control spending came to naught with the mayor and councilors voting down cost-cutting motions.  And at a time when Ashland Citizens for Economic Sustainability (ACES) was organized to call attention to the city’s annual budget increases, concerned over the doubling of city spending over the past 10 years.
Enter Mr. Lessard, the city’s first manager with years of experience in municipal government.   Facing an upcoming year with a $2 million deficit in the general fund and no money in the approved budget for any pay raises at an inflationary time, he’s taken the appropriate first step in asking department heads to come up with ways to reduce expenditures.
It’s going to be a challenge.  Even greater so because past warnings and motions to cut were rejected.  
ACES hopes that city department heads will take this assignment seriously.  They should know better than anyone where some savings can be achieved.
But, other cuts will have to come about in citywide reviews of salaries, benefits, staffing; spending for materials and services; and replacement of fulltime staff by contracting for legal, human resources, accounting, inspection and other needs. 
We’d start by getting agreement from staff to give up its annual six percent, tax free bonus which comes about by the city’s payment of the employees share of retirement contributions as well as the six percent employers share.