The most important decision City Council makes each year is how to spend your tax dollars. The annual budget is the actual, tangible expression of our values and priorities. Yet we face tough choices in the years ahead. Our community needs to continue to grow, but we are bumping up against our ability to equitably raise revenues without further driving up our high cost of living or driving out our local businesses. We need long-term thinking, community engagement, and a detailed analysis of the numbers to balance the competing demands on our limited fiscal resources.
In recent years, the city has identified over $800M in unfunded infrastructure liabilities. If we do not take thoughtful action now, not only will this daunting number continue to grow as our city assets age, we will be failing to uphold the core responsibility of government, and our community will suffer. We, unfortunately, cannot continue to expand services and facilities while our existing investments are neglected. I will use my extensive experience with public budgets and fiscal sustainability to find the right choices for the future of our city.
We are not only hamstrung by our difficulty in raising new revenues but constrained by the embedded inflexibility of our budget. Out of the $340mm in citywide revenues raised via property taxes, sales taxes, utility rates, and fees, less than $150mm goes to the General Fund which can be dynamically allocated to our highest needs. This presents challenges even in flush times as our priorities and needs evolve, but is a self-imposed straight-jacket in times of crisis. During COVID, the city was forced to make painful cuts to staffing and human services rather than temporarily pausing longer horizon projects in departments with dedicated funding sources, which could not be shifted into the general fund. This is not an easy problem to fix, but I intend to move us in the right direction. I will apply a sustainability and resilience framework to align funding sources with expenditures, attempt to match our critical needs with stable revenues, while consistently and prudently investing in our future.