According to icleiusa.org, “sustainability” is defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” With this idea in mind, the citizens of Sacramento may need to ask themselves whether they believe that the possibility of Sacramento facing a $40,000,000 budget deficit by 2019, as well as owing over $1,000,000,000 in “unfunded liabilities,” is sustainable.
A recent article by the Sacramento Bee outlined city plans that include a $2,000,000 surplus in Sacramento’s budget during the 2014-2015 fiscal year—the first surplus Sacramento has seen in almost a decade. However, this so-called surplus is merely a temporary time saver. Without the extension of what were meant to be temporary taxes (Measure U), a stable budget will be feasible, as City Manager John Shirey claimed, only “if there is a miraculous increase in our revenue.” (Sacramento Bee)
In a thinly veiled attempt to justify the extension of Measure U, which temporarily increased taxes by one half of a percentage point in 2013, the recent article by the Sacramento Bee reminded readers that Sacramento will be in danger of returning to precarious levels of deficit in the next decade.
If Sacramento’s current budget plan will lead to the millions of dollars in deficit by 2020, why do spending plans for the 2014-2015 fiscal year include a $392,000 budget increase for prominent city officials?
Plans for future spending appear to be reliant on Measure U, a tax that will not be extended without voter approval.
Sacramento, then, plans to sustain its future budget by depending on funds that only exist temporarily, overextending the true breadth of what the city can afford. If Sacramento residents refuse to enable an increase in millions of dollars of local government spending, the local government will be left penniless due to a lack of planning for any fiscal safety net.
By planning for a deficit, officials are subtly pressuring local residents to vote for another “temporary” increase in taxes so that public pools can stay open, firemen and policemen can keep their jobs, and, of course, council-members can continue to see increases in their budget allotments.
Rather than subtly pushing local residents to vote for an increase in taxes, officials need to plan for a return to their original budget.
Rather than overextending spending, officials need to utilize what they have.
The $2,000,000 surplus that is expected for the 2014-2015 fiscal year should not be spent, but rather, saved and left untouched if the local government truly predicts a $40 million deficit by 2019. Cuts to petty spending and the removal of monetary increases for city officials are vital if this city plans to remain financially stable.
In the face of a potential $40 million deficit, local officials should be straining themselves to prevent financial disaster. Rather than flaunting the city budget’s current prosperity, they need to alter their budget plan to create a local government that can utilize minimal funds in the process of maintaining and strengthening the city’s infrastructure. Rather than emphasizing current strengths, officials need to plan for future weaknesses.
A little sustainability is all we ask.