Friday, February 15, 2008

It Wasn't Just An Exercise: Springfield Hiring Freeze In Effect, Departments Told To Cut Budgets 7%.

The Springfield News-Leader is reporting on its online edition that Springfield city government has been placed under an immediate hiring freeze, and city departments are being asked to cut their budgets by 7 percent because of an unexpected drop in sales tax revenue.

Deputy City Manager Evelyn Honea said it's too soon to know exactly how department heads will meet the 7 percent budget cut goal. But cutting employees is likely to occur. (Notice how she gives the bad news, not Cumley, and she gives it on a Friday, the start of a three-day weekend.)

The Bus, acting on a Paula Morehouse KY3 News Report Wednesday evening, blogged this two days ago, Thursday afternoon.

In response to questions raised in that post, the city told the Bus the "whole affair" was just an exercise for the department heads, and no definite decisions had been made. To quote the city's response:

the whole affair was just an exercise by staff for this year's budget process and no definite budget decisions have been made.

You can read the city's response here in my blog post. I said I was sorry, I made a mistake: it wasn't a crisis, it was just an exercise.

Thursday morning, the city's response was posted on another blog and downloaded by the Bus. We commented on the different typefaces in the document. We wondered if it was significant or not, we didn't know. Someone who knows computers told us that more than likely three different offices worked on the document, possibly trying to soften the bad news (spin it). The final release with the new first paragraph is the most telling. That paragraph says the budget cuts were requested by city council. The city's response appeared to me to be damage control and didn't really address the issue. I have blogged on this topic before.

To recap:
Late Wednesday evening, KY3 News reported and the Bus expanded on the city's plan to cut budgets by 5%, questioning why this was announced after the council voted on the square renovations*
Thursday afternoon, the city emailed me a response this whole affair was just an exercise and no budget decisions had been made.
Friday afternoon, the SN-L reports that the City has announced a hiring freeze and budget cuts.

This is a perfect example of giving out bad news on a Friday afternoon at the start fo a three day weekend. It makes the Saturday paper, (The story was not on the 5pm or 6pm KY3 News telecast) and the news cycle for the story is over by Saturday evening. Sunday, another news cycle will begin and the news will be that a big union endorses Obama or McCain chooses Matt Blunt as his running mate, or Martin Truex, Jr., in the Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, wins the 50th running of the Dayton 500. Monday city offices are closed in celebration of President's day.

*In my February 13 blog posting, I said, among other things, As I see it, our tax money is going to benefit his project while city departments are asked to cut 5%.

The city thought it important that I clarify my comments to note that the budget cuts, etc., are specific to the General Fund and that is only one portion of the overall budget. The money for the Square is a federal grant specifically for that purpose. There's no way we could take the federal grant money and apply it to the General Fund, or from any of the other designated funds for that matter.

Sources tell the Bus the city initially expected to get a $1 million federal highway grant, requiring a 20 percent local match. Congress chipped bits and pieces of that grant away, so the city now actually has about $881,000 to work with, also requiring a 20 percent local match, or about $176,000. The $176,000 is our tax money.

1 comment:

Jason said...

Good prediction on the Daytona 500. :)