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Thread: Planning and Budget Cuts

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Planning and Budget Cuts

    State and local budgets are hurting. At the state level, much of the problem is due to inept politicians who overspent and overcommitted when the economy was good. At the local level, at least in Wisconsin, much of the problem is due to a state government looking for a scapegoat, shifting costs to local governments, and cutting the funds it sends to local governments. With revenues down and costs up, how are local governments filling the gap?

    We have heard from Chet that he lost two of seven people in his office. My city is doing without a city engineer, and I had to put together a budget with no increase over last year. In fact, my budget is only about $10,000 more than it was the year before I started - 1996. We don't yet know about salary increases. There is a real possibility we will be asked to take no increase.

    How is the budget situation affecting other planners?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian biscuit's avatar
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    As I stated in an earlier post my city had to let 1/3 of our planning staff go last month and were starting to now feel the effects. Lots of cross-training and taking on work you probably haven't done since school, but we have a great director and we're trying to work our way through it. Our city budget is a mess (just as others are) and the state has shown little to no interest in doing anything about it.

  3. #3
    So far we have not had to lay anybody off, but who knows, I could be gone tomorrow! It is truly a bad time to be looking for work in municipal government in Wisconsin. Some other municipalities have cut several positions. many of which were held by long-term employees. We have already been told that it is unlikely we will see any pay increases next year and we will have to contrubute more money towards health care.

    I guess my big problem with this is that there is a huge anti-government feeling going on through the state. People only look at things like this in terms of how it affects their tax bill. I guess I get kind of upset when people like our local talk show hosts rail against us that "feed at the public trough," as if we were welfare recipients. Many public employees have spent thousands of dollars on education in order to improve the way government works and how their city is developed. I will agree that there is a lot of government waste out there, but it seems like a lot of the cuts around these parts are being done as a way to win re-election, and are not well thought out.

    It is funny how when a major employer in the City cuts 200 jobs everybody decries corporate greed and rips the company. When government cuts 200 positions, people are practically dancing in the streets.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  4. #4
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Our budget crunch is always a political thing, as we are an independent agency contracted by the City to provide legislated services.

    The funny thing is that when they look at teh budget they see teh big number only, they forget that we return nearly 70% of our budget in fees collected to them.

    The real problem in our community is poor fiscal planning and management in the past. Imagine the amount of money in the coffers if they had not charged $25 for a building permit when the 600 million dollar mill was built during early 1990's.

    They will be phasing in an employee contribution to benefits over teh next 2-3 years.

    the other ofdd thing is that we need to hire another person to maintain our current level of grants, if we don't then we could be in real trouble.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    The city I live in almost had its finances taken over by the state recently because of decades of mismanagement. The new Mayor made lots of spending cuts, but actually did the opposite thing when it came to department heads - he reviewed past performance and qualifications, and in some cases increased high-level salaries to attract better people to get the city out of its funk. The Planning Director survived.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    It sounds like Wisconsin is going through what California did about 10 years ago. At the time I was working in Davis and within a few weeks of the State's intentions to shift responsibilities to municipalities while lower their share of taxes, huge budget cuts were made. A small portion of the cuts were personnel, most were services and training. It's sad to see Wisconsin doing the same thing

  7. #7
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    In Iowa, things were very tight last fiscal year, as tax valuations are in the decline in most areas. We also have this thing called the Residential Roll back where only about half of the residential valuation is taxable. The State has been increasing this roll back, thus cutting taxes. Cities in Iowa must certify their budgets to the state in March. This April the stat decides to completely eliminate a direct payment that they had been giving cities and counties based upon population. This cut 10-20% from the general fund of every city in Iowa. The city I left did not replace me, so they have no planning staff at all now. Police, Fire, Library, Planning and Park and rec departments have been devistated. In my new job, I have to find $19,000 out of a $693,000 general fund to not spend this year and probably for several more, until the economy turns around. I have 6 full time employees, so some services have to go. The State Legislature calls it "Reinventing Government".... go figure
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  8. #8
    Cyburbian SlaveToTheGrind's avatar
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    I left my first job because of potential budget cuts (and the pay sucked - $11.24/hour in 1997) and hey, newest hired is first fired when budget problmes arise. My current place of employment deals with this by not over hiring. The city of around 90,000 has two planners. One for commercial and the other for residential/industrial. Where I previously worked, population of 30,000/county, there were up to 8 planners. So in lean times like now, I really don't have to worry about my job, which I am very thankful for. And we did get a pay adjustment this fiscal year based on what similar postions in the area pay.

  9. #9

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    In California, it depends on where you are. My City is reasonably well-run from a fiscal standpoint. We have reserves. And, being the low cost area for the Bay Area, we are NOT really seeing the recession (i.e., sales tax declines, building permit declines, etc.) Silicon Valley-City of Fremont has had big cutbacks. Friends and ex-co-workers have not been able to find a job)

    Of course, the State is trying to stick municipalities with the bill, here, as well, it just wasn't as bad as we initially feared.

    We have a neighboring city, Suisun City that is ALL redevelopment project areas (TIF zone). The State takebacks have devastated their budget. The "smart growth" movement loves to hold up Suisun City as a "new urbanist" exemplar. That's fine, but the propaganda ignores the fact that the City is bankrupt. They may have a pretty waterfront walkway, but they can't afford to pay police officers to patrol the city at night (and they have some nasty neighborhoods that exemplify how quickly 1960s subdivisions can decline.)

    We are scheduled to lose one position during the next two years. A senior manager has left the City, which helps our department budget. Another co-worker has moved th=o the Penninsula (over an hour away), so he is obviously looking for a job closer to home.

  10. #10
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    I've been fortunate enough to avoid budget cuts in my career so far. I left my previous job before some cuts started happening (my position was re-evaluated, and slated for a salary reduction as I was leaving....and I was already among the lowest paid planners in NH while I was there).
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quick post - Im not really back yet!~

    Repo - your former employer lost 14 people this week including 5 in your dept.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Our County is just coming out of a long hiring freeze. Many positions were vacant for months. Some have been filled with underqualified staff or recent graduates, to keep starting pay down.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Rem's avatar
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    We've been steadily increasing planning staff for about 5 years (we currently are advertising for two senior planners which are new positions). I see this continuing for at least another three years. Our problem is finding staff to fill the vacancies - it is a national problem.

    We are subject to significant cost shifting from other levels of government as described by Cardinal, and there is a Federal Inquiry into the practice coming to a conclusion at present. Don't hold out much hope for theinquiry BTW, it was politically motivated by the conservative federal government to attack the liberal state governments.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    Things are very slow in the private sector right now. I've only had one major project and a few minor ones to work on for the past several months and they don't require a lot of billable time. There aren't any other projects starting up any time soon either. There are many times when we wonder if the bosses are going to make payroll. No one has been cut yet as I work for a small company (13 people), but I don't think I will be getting a substantial raise this year.
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  15. #15

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    The City of Chicago will start debating its budget later this month, and the Mayor's Office is already leaking information that the City may face up to 800 layoffs and an early retirement offer to trim the payroll (the City employs about 40,000 people, with over half that being Police and Fire).

    I don't know how much of the cuts Planning will bear, but they do seem to get more than their fair share every time this happens.

  16. #16
    maudit anglais
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    Planning actually does quite well here, or at least it has lately once they figured out that the cuts they made a few years back were not very efficient. We actually generate revenue through application and building permit fees. We're in the middle of hiring right now, but it looks like we'll be facing a freeze soon.

  17. #17
    Our budget is equal to what it was in 1976 dollars. We haven't had raises in three years and our medical has gone way up (while choice has gone way down).

    Eighty-five percent of our municipal budget is consumed by public safety (payroll, benefits, equipment and et cetera for police, fire and communications). Planning manages a mere 1.0014%.

    OT: Ooooooooh, I'm almost 10% of the way to the Clube.
    Hooo waah!
    Je suis Charlie

  18. #18

    OK times

    We have been very fortunate. Our past Councils & Managers have been very conservative, and always had a small surplus. Lot of annexxed area and good economic development, but the stae will continue to shift burden to locals. Administered one cutback and don't want to do it again. We have actually got two new positions, but they are front line inspectors. Stay tuned.

  19. #19
    DA Monkey's avatar
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    good times

    It is a good time to be a planner here, as REM says, there is a national shortage. I used to sub-contract, but now work for a private company. I still average around 2 calls a month from people looking to hire.

    I think the introduction of new planning legislation in the last few years as well as local Councils producing new planning schemes has created a situation where there is simply not enough skilled people. That is where the main problem lies. Whilst graduates are still in demand, experienced planners available for hire are as rare as hens teeth.

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