Council candidates weigh in on budget cuts
Editor’s Note: Each week, The Breeze will ask candidates for city council their views on an issue of interest to the voters. Each candidate is asked the same question in a phone interview. Last week’s question dealt with the revenue side of the budget. This week’s question deals with the services side, or budget cuts:
In an effort to deal with the drop in revenue resulting from lower property values, the city budget proposal includes new and increased taxes as well as cuts to programs and personnel. What is your position on the proposed cuts? And if you are against increased or new taxes, and cuts in services, how do you propose to balance the budget?
District 6 candidate, 67-year-old Frank Antos, Jr., a retired publisher said some cuts may be necessary, but he would like to see other options explored.
“If it comes to having to make up for the deficiency, I wouldn’t be totally against laying off some employees, but I would rather see people in certain departments take a day off,” he said.
Also seeking the District 6 post in Kevin McGrail. Medical technologist McGrail, 53, said he is realistic about how much can be gained simply by “trimming the fat” from the city budget.
“We have to balance the budget, but we also need to be honest,” he said.
If cuts are necessary, he said, the last place the city should look is to the police and fire departments.
“These services are the basic point of government,” he said.
Their fellow District 6 candidate, 69-year-old retired police detective John Cataldi, Jr., said he thinks proposals for service reductions are premature.
“I don’t want to reduce anything for ratepayers. But we have to have the money. The first thing we have to do is review our assets and reevaluate department by department,” he said.
District 4 incumbent Dolores Bertolini said cuts maybe unavoidable.
“But the budget will have to be balanced,” she said. “Even if things have to be taken out, or we need a further reduction in personnel.”
Her opponent, Chris Chulakes-Leetz, disagrees.
“It’s not a good time to be cutting any necessary programs, but I believe we have anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of the budget that can be identified and cut, he said.
Chulakes-Leetz, 53, is a Realtor.
District 1 contenders Jim Martin and Marty McClain have differing views on the proposed cuts.
“Cuts are not necessary,” said Martin, a 77-year-old a retired aerospace engineer. “If anything, the city staff should be required to reduce their hours.”
McClain, a 51-year-old construction consultant, said cuts should begin with the superfluous.
“It’s going to have to be the least essential things to go first, like special events,” he said.
Mayoral candidate John Sullivan, a 66-year-old retiree, said better management, not services or personnel cuts, is the key to balancing the budget.
“There are other places where fat can be trimmed. I don’t want to cut any services or jobs. I’ve been through the budget and what we’ve paid for some things is out of line, like the $6 million we paid for a firehouse, when Charlotte built theirs for $1.7 million,” he said.
Also seeking the mayor’s seat is Robert Pizzolongo, a 46-year-old Comcast employee. Pizzolongo said any cuts should come from the top down.
“Instead of going after the hourly rate person, we need to cut out the upper management, they go first,” he said. “If I have to cut my salary in have to provide essential services, I will do that.”
Candidate Stephen Lovejoy, 51, runs a document management company and has a similar point of view.
“If there are any cuts it should be to non-essential programs and to administration. Maybe get some of the upper-level administrators to take a pay cut,” he said.
Incumbent Jim Burch, a 58-year-old land surveyor, said cuts may be unavoidable.
“I don’t see any other way. If you’ve lost revenue, it is unfortunate but the writing is already on the wall. We have half of the money we had two years ago, but don’t have half the population,” he said
Former mayor and current candidate Roger Butler, a 74-year-old retired police officer, said cuts may may have to be made, but don’t have to be permanent.
“We will have to be make sacrifices for at least a year or two. Some things will have to suffer. We’re in pretty tough times,” he said.
Anything that is taken out of the budget can be put back in when time are better.
“The city will not look the same in a couple of years, we can always bring back things that get cut,” he said.