A banner unfurled at the hearing this morning. Credit: Photo Housing Works/Julie Turkewitz
A balanced budget is a simple thing.
If you don’t have enough cash, you have to cut. If you don’t want to cut, then you have to raise the cash.
Makes sense, right?
This morning at City Hall, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mark Page, tested council members’ grasp on the concept. For the most part, those council members would much rather raise revenue instead of slash at city services.
They had a couple of suggestions — none of which were palatable to Page. Staying in his usual character, Page shot them down, one after the other.
Take Councilmember Letitia James, who suggested early retirement incentives to help ease the burn of layoffs.
To Page, that would only make matters worse.
“When you take a group of city employees and accelerate when they leave, what you are doing is moving from that 40-year municipal lifetime to something shorter,” Page said. “You pay them a premium for retiring early. … Now say that person would work another four years. Well, that four years you are paying the first guy that premium and you’re paying somebody else’s pension and health costs.”
Page went on: “You save money the first year. You start losing money in the second year. By the fourth year, you’re under water.”
If the city were going to layoff a large number of workers (let’s say, hypothetically, the 4,400 teacher layoffs were back on the table), then the prospect of early retirement or buyouts could be explored, Page said.
Well, why not use the surplus from the city’s health care trust fund — which officials estimate will be at $1.4 billion this year — to soften the budget blow, asked Councilmember Vincent Gentile?
Page said no way.
By Courtney Gross on June 7, 2010, 5:31 pm
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