Cutting off the fat |

Cutting off the fat

Budget cuts are already dominating discussions among lawmakers and corporate boards, and they’ll get the spotlight at an Aspen City Council work session Tuesday.

That’s when Aspen’s elected leaders will hear a slew of presentations from city department heads on how they plan to reduce their 2009 budgets by 10 percent. Representatives from other organizations that receive city funding, including the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, also will be on hand to make their pitches. ACRA’s marketing budget is supported by the city’s bed tax.

These cuts will be painful, as people in the local private sector ” be it the industries of construction, real estate, tourism, media, you name it ” already understand. Elected leaders will have some tough choices to make.

By most accounts, our city government seems to be run quite efficiently. Still, the city has pursued some projects that have made us scratch our heads ” certain fire hearths and overbuilt trails come to mind ” and we believe there are some decisions they’ll make that should not be difficult.

First, we cannot fathom the city handing out annual raises in this economic climate. If there’s one way to tighten the belt, this is it.

We also encourage the city to slash the consulting fees it hands out each year. Just last year, the city spent more than $500,000 on consulting fees alone. This simply cannot happen this year.

The conferences and training seminars also should stop. One way to ratchet down expenses is to slash travel expenses. Conferences and training are beneficial, certainly, but we see a greater short-term upside by staying put during a recession. It just doesn’t look good to be jetting off to one of Aspen’s sister cities when times are this tough.

It was encouraging to see the city back off its Main Street pedestrian project, which would have cost up to $3 million. Pedestrian safety is of the utmost importance, but there are cheaper, less gaudy ways to improve it on Main Street.

Aspen residents ” either directly or indirectly ” will be affected by the city’s budget cuts. But before the real work begins, from deciding whether to close certain city facilities for part of the year to possibly laying off full-time employees, we implore city officials to at least slash the obvious expenses ” consultants, travel, pay increases ” that aren’t absolutely essential during tough times.

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