Grand Rapids City Manager Kurt Kimball released the annual budget for the city government yesterday. He told the Grand Rapids Press it was a "tortuous process" eliminating dozens of city hall office jobs including twelve assistant city managers. (Twelve! Why did we ever need so many?) It is interesting that Kimball said the process was "tortuous" which means "marked by devious or indirect tactics" as opposed to "torturous" which means "painfully difficult or slow". I wonder what trickery might be involved in this new budget.
For one thing is Kimball's great howls of distress over a budget deficit that is actually quite small. Relying upon the figures printed in the Press, the general fund budget (which isn't all that the city government spends, but accounts for most its operations) for the next year is set at $118 million. The budget shortfall will be $3.2 million. That's it. A 2.5% across the board cut in the general fund expenditures would balance the budget. But that will never happen, because that would mean taking a slice out of the 800-pound gorilla of city expenditures, the salary and benefits of city employees.
That's where most of your city tax dollars go, folks. As a result the average annual salary and benefit package for a city employee is $81,552. Not bad for government work. After Kimball reduces the city staff by a net total of 43, there will still be 1,690 city employees. If, instead of the taxpayers and residents of Grand Rapids receiving fewer services and paying higher user fees, city employees bore the brunt of the $3.2 million budget shortfall, then the cost to each one of them would be only $36 a week.
Is that so much to ask of public servants who, on average, are more highly compensated than the people who are paying their salaries? Of course not. But then City Manager Kimball works them, not you. So don't expect him to put the public interest ahead of their pecuniary interest.