Wyoming Liberty Group
Yes We Can – Cut Government Spending
In a world where government spending only goes one way, the tiny city of Douglas, WY is showing unusual fortitude in actually cutting government spending. After a series of infrastructural investments, during which the city almost doubled its budget, the city council has done what most politicians could never do: they masterfully resisted a temptation to make the temporarily high level of city spending permanent. The Douglas Budget reports on part of the city’s efforts to return its budget from $22 million to a more regular $11.5 million:
With general fund revenues projected to drop approximately $662,000, Douglas city officials are proposing a much slimmer budget than the last two years. A total budget of $11.5 million is being proposed for fiscal year 2010-11, a drop of $5.2 million from the budgets for 2009 and 2010. … Total operating expenses for the city’s enterprise funds (water, sewer, sanitation and landfill) are budgeted to be nearly cut in half, projected to be $3.5 million in the upcoming year after spending more than $6.5 million during the current fiscal year. Interim City Administrator Neuerburg said the drop was partly due to the cutting of capital projects. A water and sewer line project to the Douglas landfill, which is estimated to cost $1.5 million, is one of those projects pushed back. The annual miscellaneous water and sewer project to replace outdated water and sewer lines in the city also was pushed back. “We cut construction projects that we should’ve scheduled to do this year, but we had to push them out a year or two because we didn’t have the money,” Neuerburg explained. He noted the projects were revenue driven, and if collected sales tax were higher than projected ($3.2 million), those monies would be allocated out to high-priority projects that initially have been pushed back. Street improvement projects are predicted to cost the city $970,000, which Neuerburg said would only cover a portion of the street repairs necessary in the city. “The staff worked very hard to prioritize the projects, knowing there’s not enough money to repair everything,” he said. … The fund getting cut the most is park improvements, which will see its budget cut 91.3 percent from $207,000 to $18,000.
The city is also leaving a half-dozen vacant jobs unfilled after having cut away up to ten employees last year.
Instead of following the usual habit in politics of trying to grab more revenue to maximize spending, the Douglas city council is showing commendable restraint in how it manages taxpayers’ money. The city of Powell also deserves honorable mention, with 25 percent budget cut.
While budget cuts under the recession gun are not the best way to reduce governments, taxpayers should take a long, hard look at their local governments when the economy picks up again and ask: “do we really need to grow government back to where it was before the recession?”