Receiving feedback from PublicCEO’s readers is one of the great joys of being Editor, so today we present city manager Patrick West’s response to Pat Lynch’s editorial.
This letter is in response to Pat Lynch’s editorial in the June 1, 2011 edition of PublicCEO.com regarding the use of “proportionate share” as a budget strategy. We could not disagree more with her points. Long Beach has effectively used the concept of proportionate share to manage our fiscal issues to fund critical public safety services while not completely eviscerating the quality of life services that make Long Beach such a great city.
Contrary to Ms. Lynch’s opinion, proportionate share is not an across the board approach. It examines departments that experienced growth and requires those departments to make appropriate reductions to keep their growth under control. Each department must be responsible for managing its own budget, whether it is police, fire, or parks and recreation. Proportionate share ensures that we maintain an appropriate balance of services. That process ensures that growth in one service does not disproportionately affect our other core services. Using this approach, the City Manager makes budget recommendations to the Mayor and City Council, who review each recommendation, discuss priorities, take public input, and make the tough choices that best serve our community.
Additionally, Ms. Lynch’s comments are based on the assumption that Long Beach is just starting to utilize this approach to make budget reductions and has not undergone a review of all services. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Since 2002, our Mayor and City Council have undertaken an intense process with the community to find General Fund deficit reduction solutions amounting to $188.4million. This was a comprehensive process that eliminated the “nice to have” services while keeping core services as intact as possible. Long Beach significantly cut management positions, administrative staff, cell phones, and vehicles before turning to any cuts in services. Additionally, city departments, bureaus, and divisions were consolidated and city operations were restructured to realize savings through efficiency improvements. It was not until those processes were complete that proportionate share was enacted last year to preserve all the core services that are vital to our community.
Absent a proportionate share model, by 2030, 100 percent of our General Fund would go towards public safety if nothing is done to address the growth. That is clearly not an operational approach any city could withstand. Proportionate share will ensure that our Police and Fire Departments receive the majority of the General Fund resources each and every year (nearly 70 percent), while keeping funds to pay for all the other services our residents deserve such as great parks, libraries for our youth, sidewalks, code enforcement, animal control, and support services.
Our Mayor and City Council should be applauded for adopting this approach and making the difficult choices each and every year to maintain an appropriate balance of service to our community.
~Patrick H. West is the City Manager of the City of Long Beach