Budget Fail

In a previous post, I listed perks that theoretically could be cut from the FY2011 budget. Car allowances, magazine subscriptions, dues to professional organizations, lunch reimbursements, and clothing allowances run into hundreds of thousands each year. (Sure, some of them are contractual — but did they even try to talk to the unions about them?)

At any rate, Third Ward Alderman Pam Verbic is against cuts to perks. Verbic says the city “can’t run a professional organization” without them.

That’s nonsense. In the real world, professionals have been paying out of pocket and taking business deductions for these items off their personal taxes for years. Some of the allowances don’t even make sense. While I could see a clothing allowance for employees who have contact with the public, why does IT have one?

The real underlying problem, of course, is that overall compensation and health “insurance” costs are too high. They need to be reset and it will take a while, contract by contract. (Too bad they didn’t take this seriously two years ago. We might be in a different place by now.) However, there is an immediate urgency to save jobs because that is good for all of us. When Verbic refuses to look at hundreds of thousands in perks, and Gallagher refuses to consider cuts to the Municipal Band budget, they are basically saying that paying for stuff like the city manager’s subscription to Crains Chicago Business is more important than trying to bring back the AFSCME employees they laid off, or saving first responders. They either don’t get it, or they don’t care.

It puts the lie to their insistence that “everything is on the table” budget-wise, and to the stated strategic goal of protecting and increasing public safety.