"We will present a budget that is balanced, with no layoffs, no tax increases and no use of reserves," says Mayor Virg Bernero Sunday, one day before he gets set to unveil the city's 2007-2008 fiscal year budget.
He's proud to reveal the hallmarks of his plan, but won't go into too many details. Moral of the story, Bernero says, is that he and his staff tackled a $7 million deficit.
"This budget makes strategic investments and strategic cuts. It's a tough time. We have to tighten our belts and do more with less, and we can."
Cuts won't be made across the board, he says, but the cuts will be significant in specific departments (which he isn't yet naming.)
"We've gone through with a fine-toothed comb," Bernero says.
The budget includes regionalizing some services and continuing the hiring freeze on city jobs.
"We can't expect to go about business as usual and keep as many jobs as we had, it's just impossible."
Councilwoman Carol Wood hasn't yet seen the budget, but she worries using the hiring freeze as a money-saving tactic will backfire.
"Services equate to people doing those services," she says. "If you keep those jobs open, the service goes away."
Bernero implies his budget includes health care cuts he hopes union workers will agree to. But Wood says that's pie-in-the-sky politics.
"The unions are not willing to discuss those contracts."
Beyond cuts, the budget will focus on improving public safety, neighborhoods and economic development.
"I'm not going to put up a white flag because we have a tough budget," Bernero says. "This budget makes strategic investments."
Once the budget is revealed, the City Council will have nearly two months to debate it; they'll vote on the budget mid-May.