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Birth Of A Budget

“We have to have this done before [Council President] David Tandy and his wife have their next child,” says Metro Councilman Kelly Downard about the list of budget priorities Mayor Abramson requested last week.The Tandys’ child is due on May 11th. So is the council’s assignment. They have to come together and tell the mayor how they would like money to be taken out of the budget, if the city’s team of economists predicts flat or negative growth for the next fiscal year.To use Downard’s example, the council will need to determine if libraries take precedence over parks, and which parks should be cut first, if need be. Councilman Jim King says the priorities could also be helpful if the budget needs to be cut after it’s passed, like the last two budgets have. The more than $20 million cut from the current budget will have to stay out of the new plan unless revenue growth is predicted.What’s more, inflation and other costs (pensions, etc) will put a strain on revenue for FY10, and some of the cuts that were made in FY09 may not be sustainable. That means layoffs and dramatic cuts are possible. Or, as the mayor puts it, “Everything is on the table.”The final recommendation from the council on what to cut will take the form of one document, most likely supported by a majority of council members. The mayor is under no obligation to heed the recommendations, and Downard says even if Abramson does listen to the council, that doesn’t mean the budget will win easy passage.Budgets are rarely passed easily or un-amended in other cities, states and in the Federal Government. But it seems like the mayor’s effort to consult the council is an attempt to reduce contention this summer, when his proposed spending plan goes before the council.Downard says this is the way for the council to fulfill the promise of the merger – to have representatives from across the county help the mayor put together legislation. Do you agree? Or does the council do its assigned job when it debates, amends and passes legislation put forward by the mayor?