Norfolk City Council has a light regular agenda this week, in preparation for the release of the 2012 Fiscal Year Budget on Tuesday. There are only five regular items on the agenda. On Monday morning, City Council members will get their first look at a budget that is $32 million slimmer than last year. On Tuesday, at the 7:00pm formal session, the City Manager will make a public presentation of this year’s budget.
I have to commend our City Manager, Marcus Jones, for opening up the process before the budget was even released. Marcus held five public meetings to ask citizens about their priorities for the budget. He also included city employees in the process through various meetings and outlets. Was it perfect? No… but the openness he brought to the process was needed in a time in which citizens are skeptical of city government processes.
I do not envy Marcus and his staff for having to find ways to close the $32 million gap. Budget cuts are always painful. I predict a budget that is going to focus on funding our core services at current levels, and cutting back on secondary services and some planned projects. Norfolk will be moving to a smaller, smarter government. Marcus calls this “Rightsizing for a Well-Managed Organization”. Recently, City Council voted on offering retirement incentives to city employees. The amount of employees accepting this incentive far exceeded expectations. With just over 125 employees accepting the offer, the city is looking to save $4-$6 million dollars next year. Anticipating a brain-drain, the City Manager also proposed a new policy for hiring back retirees as part-time employees in critical areas. This was a smart move on all levels.
Although our neighboring cities have announced budgets with real estate tax increases, there has been no talk around City Hall of one being offered with Marcus’s proposal. Since there is no separate scheduled public hearing on a real estate tax increase this year, as required by our City Charter, we could assume that one is not being proposed.
The regular City Council Budget Public Hearing will be held at Granby High School on Wednesday, May 4, 2011 at 6:00pm. Hope you will attend and voice your support or concerns with the budget. If you plan on attending, parking is also available off of Newport Ave. by the Tennis Courts behind the school. This parking is closer to the auditorium where the budget hearing is being held. I will try to get budget highlights up on the blog in the next few days.
On another note, R-3 is a new and interesting idea for our city. The ordinance regulates (allows) small performances in parks and on sidewalks, or what is referred to as “busking“. Click on the R-3 link for more information.
You will also notice that the informal agenda includes a briefing on televising the informal work sessions. Starting in May, City Council will finally be moving to televised informal work sessions. WOO HOO!!! Yes, you will probably get to watch me eat dinner and shuffle through all of the junk mail I get weekly.