Here is a wrapup of some city and state budget problems posted in various places today. The wrapup culminates with a link to an online form where you can suggest budget solutions for Illinois.

Situations like those appearing below are currently taking place in every city, county, and state in the nation. Individually, the job cuts and problems may seem small, but the cumulative impact, along with the tax hikes that are coming will be enormous.

Gaming industry refuses to pay more to help solve state budget crisis

The Nevada Resort Association announced Thursday night that the gaming industry won’t agree to a Democratic plan to obtain $32 million more a year from casinos to help balance the state budget.

If Democrats can’t get the casinos to agree to cough up more revenue, it puts in jeopardy their whole budget-balancing plan that attempts to avoid deep cuts in education and social services.

Key Republicans have said they won’t support any revenue-raising plan that the target industry doesn’t accept.

Las Vegas
Las Vegas city budget woes: 170 jobs on the line

Thursday was a difficult day at City Hall. About 170 workers are being told their jobs are on the line.

Those layoffs are the result of a multi-million dollar budget shortfall. But Mayor Oscar Goodman says it doesn’t have to be this way. He wants all city workers to give up a little to save a lot.

The bad news was laid out by City Manager Betsy Fretwell and Goodman. A looming $70 million deficit means services and jobs are about to be cut unless the four major unions involved in city government agree to help out.

“We would much prefer everybody be a little bit altruistic, little bit caring about fellow workers. And if they did what we’re proposing, after all the cuts we’ve made, if they take and eight percent reduction in salary then nobody’s going to lose their job,” said Mayor Goodman.

Goodman says right now the city is in negotiations with the fire department only. The other union contracts, such as for marshals and corrections workers, aren’t up.

The city should privatize the entire fire department. That would end the problem in one simple step.

Peach County Georgia
Can a Four-Day School Week Work?

Like every school district in Georgia, Peach County was forced to cut their budget by 3-percent. Clark says she had only two choices that could save that kind of money: lay off 39 teachers, eliminating every art, music, and PE class -OR-something never seen before in Georgia, go to a four-day school week.

Teachers now work four 10-hour days. The day for students is slightly longer than an average 5-day school day, but there’s no down time. Non-instructional parts of the day have been cut out. Individual tutoring is widely attended before and after class. The number of instructional minutes for students is the same, in some cases even higher, than it used to be.

On Mondays, the schools close. Finding daycare was a big concern for critics of the plan. Clark responded, “The mission of this school district is not to provide daycare. The mission of this school district is to provide students with an education. And while we have had the luxury of providing daycare for the community five days a week, we don’t have that luxury anymore.”

Rhode Island
Plan to fire teachers roils RI’s poorest city

The blue-and-white banner exclaiming “anticipation” on the front of Central Falls High School seems like a cruel joke for an institution so chronically troubled that its leaders decided to fire every teacher by year’s end.

No more than half those instructors would be hired back under a federal option that has enraged the state’s powerful teachers union, earned criticism from students, and brought praise from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and some parents.

The shake-up comes as Rhode Island’s new education commissioner, Deborah Gist, pushes the state to compete for millions of dollars in federal funding to reform the worst 5 percent of its schools, including in Central Falls. State law requires schools to warn teachers by March 1 if their jobs are in jeopardy for the following school year.

To get the money, schools must choose one of four paths set under federal law, including mass firings. Gallo has said she initially hope to avoid layoffs by adopting a plan that would have lengthened the school day and required teachers to get additional training and offer more after-school tutoring.

The U.S. Department of Education does not play a role in deciding which model schools choose and did not know Wednesday whether Central Falls was the first to opt to get rid of its teachers, said Sandra Abrevaya, a department spokeswoman.

The decision won praise from Republican Gov. Don Carcieri, a former math teacher who supports Gist.

This was the correct decision. Now those 50% (minimum) of the teachers who are out of a job, can ponder the loss of their $78,000 over refusal to work another 35 minutes a day. The only thing surprising about the result is the support from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Mesa Arizona
Mesa budget woes deepen; new deficit now $19.6 million

Mesa’s City Council learned Thursday morning they will have to slash spending by another $19.6 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

City Manager Chris Brady said while collections for this fiscal year have fallen about $16.4 million short of projections, there’s enough money
in the bank to avoid further budget cuts between now and June 30.

A year ago, for example, when the city imposed an emergency spending reduction of $61 million, some departments, such as parks, saw their budgets sliced by 30 percent. Police and fire spending were reduced 5-7 percent.

That’s an amazing display of denial by City Manager Chris Brady, waiting until more funds are depleted to act, and ignoring the fire department totally. It gets worse: Mesa to offer free all-day kindergarten despite budget woes.

Carbondale Illinois
Illinois budget problems felt at local dentist office

What happens if the boss cannot afford to pay you for a full week’s work?

In most instances either you work a few days for nothing, or you do what many places have been forced to do during hard times, such as one Carbondale dentists’ office.

It has become another victim of Illinois’s $13 billion dollar budget crisis. Recently staff members held their breath as they opened an e-mail from the chief executive officer.

“I am hoping we’ll be able to eliminate this uncertainty considering furlough days in the near future. But at least we can extend the delay for another two weeks,” Shawnee Health Care Chief Executive Officer, Patsy Jensen said as she read from a recently sent email.

Some 350 employees received that email. The subject is furlough days. Jensen says she started these emails back in December. “If we can’t meet our payroll demands then we are going to ask our staff to take one day off a week,” Jensen said.

Shawnee Health Care has clinics in Carbondale, Marion, and Murphysboro. At the Carbondale clinic, nearly 80% of dental patients are on Medicaid. In Illinois, the state must match 50% of Medicaid dollars. However, Jensen says due to Medicaid payments delays, many area dentists don’t accept the program.

“We’re at a minimum 90 days out,” Jensen said about state Medicaid payments.

Island County Washington
Island County’s 5-year budget projection is dismal

The Island County budget director recently presented commissioners with a worrisome five-year budget projection that shows reserve funds dwindling to levels that could create cash flow problems in just a year or two.

“Island County is at a critical juncture. We have prided ourselves on having the lowest tax rate in the state for years, now we’re suffering the consequences of having the lowest tax rate. Do we want to continue with that?” Commissioner Helen Price Johnson asked at a Monday morning roundtable meeting with elected officials and department heads.

Over the last year and a half, county commissioners have dealt with $5.2 million in budget shortfalls — about a quarter of the current expense fund — largely by cutting staff and dipping into reserve funds. More than 55 positions have been cut. The budget is balanced for now, but the pain may not be over.

Budget Director Elaine Marlow created two five-year budget projections. They both estimate a low-level increase in revenues from taxes, fees and other sources. One estimates a 2 percent overall increase in expenses from salary, bases and benefits, while the other estimates twice that. Both estimates assume that staff levels won’t increase and employees will not receive cost-of-living increases.

Marlow projects that costs will significantly outweigh revenues in either scenario. Next year, she predicts the budget will be out of whack by more than $800,000. The deficit each year will slowly shrink as the economy recovers. By 2015, the projection shows the deficit at $258,000.

The commissioners will have three basic choices: cut expenditures, use more unreserved funds or raise taxes.

California State Legislature Establishes ‘Cuss Free Week’

Californians had better start watching their mouths.

The state Assembly passed a resolution Thursday that would establish the first week of March as “Cuss Free Week” throughout the state. If approved by the Senate next week, the measure would take effect immediately.

The resolution includes no enforcement mechanism and is simply meant to promote greater harmony and connectedness, said Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, a Democrat from La Canada Flintridge and co-author of the measure.

California has serious pressing needs such as a $13 billion (and growing) budget deficit and they waste time on this nonsense.

If you were looking for more proof at how dysfunctional California is, there you have it. Of course with California, additional proof is offered every day of the week.

Illinois’ budget problems, plans are online for everyone to see

The state of Illinois wants you to see its budget problems with your own eyes.

Budget numbers for fiscal years 2009 and 2010, as well as an estimated budget for fiscal year 2011 are now posted online at

Suggest a Budget Solution

This is may not do much good but it sure can’t hurt. Please Suggest a Budget Solution for Illinois.

Ideas To Consider

  • Lower salaries for Illinois House and Senate members
  • Reduce staff for representatives
  • Lower salaries for judges
  • Lower salaries for all administrative positions especially educational
  • Killing all defined benefit pension plans
  • Insistence on no tax hikes
  • Privatization
  • Constitutional Convention to change union work rules and collective bargaining
  • Help for cities by eliminating state mandates and work rules for police and fire departments
  • Scrap state prevailing wage laws
  • Ask Congress to scrap Davis-Bacon.

You may not be heard, but this is your chance to speak. Say something.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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