What measures would you take in order to contain city costs - please consider in your answer: employee compensation, city infrastructure including roads, city services including police and fire.
Davis has no financial buffer after the longest period of continuous economic growth in modern history. That is poor planning. Going forward, we need automatic smoothing mechanisms to prepare for recessionary periods. Here are the first four short-term steps I would have taken six months ago to ensure a balanced pandemic budget.
First, implement robust campaigns to incentivize local spending. A large portion of our community saw little change to their income. What did change were their habits. Had we immediately put funds towards creating outdoor spaces and promoting the survival of local establishments, Davisites would have formed different pandemic habits than they have now.
Second, levels of service should not decrease, but the delivery of these services can shift to more fiscally responsible options. For example, reporting crimes like bicycle theft should be done online with necessary accommodation available. Another example of excessive response would be the five police officers, EMS, and fire truck I witnessed respond to address a single person downtown.
Third, consultants go first. The city needs to better utilize our knowledgeable community members who are willing to offer their expertise.
Fourth, pause research projects. As a researcher, I understand the importance of gaining knowledge to inform decisions going forward. However, if we cannot find grants to fund these at this time, they may need to wait.
Long-term is a different story where much of the budget is tied up in pensions and benefits. The first three steps apply, but here are my other long-term suggestions.
This is just a start. Over the next year, I plan to go through each department's budget in great detail, speaking to the department head and at least 10% of the total employees in the department, and identify five suggestions from an outsider's perspective to increase efficiency. As an economist, efficiency is a passion.