Counterintuitive Dayton budget priorities

The City of Dayton is finally counting its pennies- and trying to manage a shrinking budget with a shrinking income.

However- the direction Tim Riordan and the city commission are taking is a going-out-of-business plan- instead of a process improvement strategy.

The city has cut more than $21 million from the budget since 2008 and will collect as much or less in income and property tax revenue than it did nearly 20 years ago, officials said. The economic crisis is the major reason cited, but the city will also feel the full brunt of NCR’s departure next year.Years of budget cuts have severely limited the city’s economic growth with money being taken from economic development to pay for services residents demand, Riordan said.

via More budget cuts for city of Dayton.

The services that they are cutting, or charging more for- the pools that they are closing- the reduced staffing of the safety forces are all the things that shouldn’t be cut or price raised. What they fail to realize in city hall is that “economic development” isn’t something you buy- it’s something you win by scoring top of class by delivering value to all your residents.

Why pay more in income tax to live in neighborhoods that will be perceived as less safe thanks to cuts in fire and police, less fun- due to cuts in parks and rec, and more expensive to live in thanks to higher fees for water, trash and permits? And a school system that’s perceived as one of the worst in the state. Every move they make says go elsewhere- like Kettering that has first-rate schools, parks and rec and safety forces.

If we can’t pick up trash more cheaply than the private companies- it’s time to stop doing it. We should be trying to sell our trash-collecting systems to suburbs, offering them package deals- including taking over their road crews, water delivery, trash collection etc. Unfortunately- we seem to have incompetent leadership in city hall that can’t see that our only hope is to grow our service-delivery capacity and become stronger at doing the basics- instead of trying to be developers (if all the money spent on “Tech Town” over the years had been plowed into basic services we wouldn’t be behind on our paving projects, would we?).

It’s time to focus on the most essential services only and do them perfectly. Schools, Safety, Infrastructure- should be the mantra.

Anything else is just more nails in the coffin.

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Civil Servants Are People, TooMike McDermott Recent comment authors
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Mike McDermott

Interesting ideas David. It is happening in the burbs too. Up north here we observe what Dayton is doing and map the similar reductions of police, fire and other services in order to balance the budget.
Any thoughts on how to expand or fully fund the Schools, Safety and Infrastructure programs on the back of the very weak current tax incomes? Can Montgomery County employees/employers survive with a 3%+ local income tax? Not being cynical, just seeing if there are any gems in your idea jar.

Civil Servants Are People, Too
Civil Servants Are People, Too

There are always policy choices, to fund one program or service at the expense of others.   I appreciate the clear positions you take on these issues.  Of course, you know that the City has no control over the schools.   So lumping them together is a red herring, a distraction from the hard decisions.
According to the OTHER article in the DDN, the development functions will be cut more than any other department – 9 percent.   So how does that fit the ‘counter-intuitive’ argument, since this is exactly what you seem to want?  It will be interesting to hear from those on the side of the city being “unfriendly to business” when these services are further reduced.
Also, it should be noted that Dayton still has the cheapest water and trash rates in the region.    That’s what some of the townships already pay for trash and the County buys the water.
That said, trying to expand these services is a good idea, although I imagine the howls of protest from those – like the ones here, sometimes – who say government should not be competing against private industry.   It’s a catch 22 – we like privatization when it saves money, but it’s a terrible idea if it costs money.   Seems to me if somebody could do it cheaper, they would.