July 30, 2008 12:00

Pop Quiz

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Welcome to the YES! Weekly Pop Quiz, where we ask politicians and public servants questions about their jobs. This week we’re asking questions about the budget passed by the Winston-Salem City Council last month. The rules are simple: The officials must answer immediately — no research, no callbacks.


Q U E S T I O N S

1) What’s the size of the city’s budget for fiscal year 2008-2009?

2) Can you name at least one way the city cut expenses for the upcoming year?

3) Do you have any other suggestions for holding down expenses this year?

Robert Clark (West Ward)

1) What we typically steward is the operating budget, which doesn’t include the water and sewer departments. The total budget, I’m going to guess, is about $350 million. The operating part of it usually comes to about $175 million. ( Correct)

2) I think we pretty much kept most of the things the same. As far as what the city manager did, I know he cut some things out of the budget before it ever got to us, and I know we wanted to add some policemen. (Correct)

3) The main thing is that we cut about five or six positions in the water and sewer departments. I know we cut out some inspector positions because housing construction is down and we don’t need them. ( Correct)

The thing that’s really hitting us is the fuel prices. It impacts the price of the asphalt we put on the roads and how much it costs to run our fire and police departments. A lot of that is out of our hands, but we are putting in place plans to save energy and work with staffing to make sure we don’t have any extra employees. ( Correct)

Dan Besse (Southwest Ward)

1) Including capital expenses and operating expenditures, it’s got to be in excess of $300 million. ( Correct)

2) We have mandated fuel-efficient vehicles and energy efficiency measures. We also controlled for staff position expansions — implemented some hiring freezes. ( Correct)

3) What I really think we need to work hardest at are two things: medical costs and energy. I’m not yet confident that we’re being vigorous enough about enforcing our fuel reduction plans.
Many times I have seen city vehicles idling when they shouldn’t be. We need to replace more of our fleet vehicles with more fuel-ef ficient, hybrid and alternative vehicles. It’s a capital cost in the short run, but in the long run it’s the right thing to do. We also need to assertively promote employee wellness. Like a lot of large employers, we’re self-insured, so medical expenses come straight out of pocket. Ultimately the cost of care is paid for out of cost and revenue. ( Correct)

A N S W E R S

1) $396.5 million

2) The city kept three positions vacant — two in the inspections division and one in the planning department — and eliminated another vacant position from the general fund. A planned overhaul of the bus system and a new salary plan for police officers will be postponed at least a year or until the economy recovers. The Water/Sewer Department eliminated four positions and eliminated new equipment purchases.

3) Whatever works

 

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