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Get proactive about the budget

Dear Editor:

A while ago when tourist business was slow Don Sheeley told me to “Watch your pennies and the dollars would roll right in.”

Recently the city of Aspen was fortunate enough to have an abundance of income from our unknowing false economy. With this huge cash flow the city had to expand its services to meet the growing demand. With the huge drop in tax revenues and income at this time it is obvious adjustments in spending need to be made.



Now that the City Council has come to terms with the slow down, they must take quick and sensible action to lay the groundwork to prevent a further spiral in the budget. Last-minute decisions will only prevent public discourse and knowledgeable debate which is necessary for any reasonable democracy.

The line item approach, while noble, is a far cry from what is needed. Most important it does not address spending in detail. With the current catastrophic effect of unrestrained capitalism and over-leveraged financial institutions one would think our city leaders would display courage and concern by looking at every element of government operations in detail.




Waiting for a couple of months to see what plays out at the cost of $10,000 to $20,000 per month makes it clear to all city employees that attention to detail is not as important as looking for line items to delete. This simple and general approach sends the message that operational efficiency is not as important as one budget item. Cooperation and support of everyone at all levels of government is necessary to prevent unyielding and wasteful spending.

Private industry in our community and around the nation has already been taking the necessary steps to avoid a catastrophic collapse in their business. No item is too small to be dismissed by their proactive and creative action. By addressing this emergent issue ahead of time they have prevented larger problems in the future.

The fundamental ingredient to wise decision making is knowledge and experience. The city of Aspen should have a thorough review for efficiency and direction of each department. An independent third party study would be cost prohibitive and time consuming.

I would suggest that the City Council and city manager work at least a half or full day within each city department. This will increase their comprehensive knowledge of all operations and would improve their informed awareness as well as create close contact with those who work at different levels of city government.

As chair of the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission I took steps last fall to lower our food costs and with the support of the city clerk prevented expensive off-site meetings by scheduling all future urgent meetings on city property. This may seem to be insignificant in the huge city budget but it does show you how small steps by each department can lead to big savings. It will also show the public that efforts are being made at all levels of government to prevent profligate spending.

We need to live within our means by having a responsible and effective fiscal policy today, not in the future. Being proactive is a sign of well-informed leaders in charge of the situation. With this background our leaders will lay the groundwork for a better city government that will earn the respect of everyone in the community.

LJ Erspamer

Aspen


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