Government Budget Cuts: No TP and Other Creative Ways to Cut Back

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The end of July marked a dismal time for many city governments that are struggling to find ways to compensate for large budget deficits. Because of the economy that is laboring to recover and, "because other folks made bad decisions and we have to correct all of those things," many cities are trying to think of creative ways to pinch pennies wherever they can, said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Often known as red tape factories, city governments such as Newark's are starting to turn heads for their unprecedented business practices as they try to get something done.


Large-scale budget cuts

At the end of July, Newark Mayor Cory Booker proposed a $600-million budget that will include: requiring nearly 1,500 non-uniformed city workers to begin a four-day work week in September; eliminating another 600 government jobs; scaling back on trash pickup and park maintenance; closing public pools early (Aug. 2, 2010), and even cutting back on basic necessities such as toilet paper, in an effort to close the $70 million budget deficit that is draining the city.

Businessweek.com reported that Booker went to the City Council and asked a second time that they pass his proposal to convert Newark's water system into a Municipal Utility Authority (MUA) so that the mayor would not have to raise taxes and further burden the already struggling citizens of Newark -- 2,500 of whom are homeowners that are already behind on their mortgage payments. To sweeten the deal, Booker even offered to delay certain steps to alleviate the budget strain and to reduce the number of police and firefighters that are ultimately laid off.

If the MUA is not established, the mayor said he will have no choice but to raise taxes in an already economically defunct city, a move that could put even more stress on the local economy.

Booker told WCBSTV.com: ""We're going to stop buying everything from toilet paper to printer paper. Call me Mr. Scrooge, if you want, but there will be no Christmas decorations around the city."


Other cities feeling the pain

Booker is not alone: Local leaders everywhere are being forced to become "Scrooges" and make hard decisions in the attempt to bolster their local economies. Cities experiencing the same troubles include Baltimore and New Orleans. For instance, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake has proposed to lay off more than 600 city workers to help tighten the purse strings in her city.

The Baltimore Sun reported that "seven fire companies would close, 90 firefighters would be let go and more than half of the city's recreation centers would be shuttered under the preliminary plan, which would cut key services to close a $121 million shortfall in the city's $2.2 billion budget."

In New Orleans, city employees will be required to take 11 unpaid furlough days before the year ends to help save money. On the www.nola.com website, Mayor Mitch Landrieu expressed his discontent with city budget cuts by saying, "This is not a proud moment for the city of New Orleans, and I am particularly angry as a citizen and as now the chief executive officer of this city to find ourselves in a situation to have to make very bad choices based on bad options."

Companies pinching pennies, too

James Ford, marketing director for a downtown Los Angeles law firm, says that his company has made some rather odd budget cuts in the past year to help pinch pennies. Just to name a few: removing plants from the office, taking away the flavored coffee creamers and sugar in the raw, no longer supplying paper plates, canceling newspaper and magazine subscriptions and restricting access to color printing.

Governments, schools, companies and households are all suffering and pinching pennies as needed, whether that is at the supermarket, in the bathroom or in the extracurricular activities offered after school. Buying less toilet paper to save a few bucks may seem pretty outrageous, but given the options it may become more normal than you might think. If buying cheaper TP or less TP keeps three employees on staff, then that seems like a pretty reasonable trade off, right?

Speak Out! What is the craziest cut your office has ever made to save some dough?


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