“The line needs to be drawn,” Ward 19 Alder Mike Stratton wrote in a Saturday email to the Ronan-Edgehill Neighborhood Association. He was referring to the budget Mayor Toni Harp proposed just a day earlier.
Stratton, who represents Prospect Hill and Newhallville on the city’s Board of Alders, said Harp is upping taxes while failing to cut unnecessary programs and offices within City Hall. He asked residents to attend the first public hearing of the Board’s finance committee this Thursday to express their doubts about a budget that hikes taxes by 3.8 percent.
Stratton decried cuts to police overtime and the number of city tree trimmers, saying Harp is sacrificing necessary spending for the sake of “patronage” jobs and duplicative city departments. He called for the combination or elimination of departments including community services, health, youth, disability and elderly — arguing that the services they perform could be executed by other levels of government or via grants to the school district, to police or to nonprofits.
“Adding 49 percent to your own budget as mayor is selfish and narcissistic after having cut things we need,” Stratton said, referring to Harp’s request for six additional City Hall positions, including a bilingual receptionist and director of minority and small business initiative.
Stratton estimated that taxes could have been reduced for the fiscal year beginning July 1 if Harp had made more strategic cuts. Stratton also suggested rolling out an incentive for city employees to live within city limits in the form of a 50 percent property tax rebate.
“We cannot take this lying down,” he concluded. “We have had enough of this … it’s inefficient; and it demonstrates a profound disrespect for you and me.”
Stratton is one of ten members on the Board’s finance committee, which considers — and often modifies — the mayor’s proposed budget before it goes to the full body for a vote.