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February 02, 2012

Weinberger Names His Budget-Trimming Team

Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss may still hold the keys to City Hall, but that’s not stopping Miro Weinberger, the Democratic candidate vying to succeed him, from planning his own mayoral transition.

Citing the quick turnaround between the March 6 election and the June 30 budget due date, Weinberger on Thursday named an eight-member panel that will conduct a "top to bottom" study of every city department and scheduled a "formal budget review" to take place the day after the election.

That is, of course, assuming he prevails at the ballot box.

At a City Hall press conference, Weinberger said he was "optimistic" his team could close a looming $700,000 budget gap without affecting police or fire services and without raising municipal taxes.

"Let me emphasize again, finding these savings will not come at the expense of public safety," he said. "I will not cut essential fire and police services, and I am optimistic that the target savings can be achieved without those cuts."

The Kiss administration has argued that without a two-cent increase in municipal taxes, the city would have to make significant staffing cuts to the police and fire departments. Last month, the city council voted 10-3 against placing Kiss’s proposed tax hike on the ballot in March.

City Councilor Kurt Wright, the Republican candidate for mayor, voted against putting the tax measure on the ballot. Wright said Thursday that he also hopes to avoid tax increases and public safety cuts, but that Weinberger’s commitment is irresponsible.

"I think it’s not prudent to make it sound like you’re guaranteeing that you’ll be able to do that," he said. "We have to be prepared to tell the voters the truth. If we can’t, I’m prepared to go to voters and ask for a tax increase."

Weinberger’s newly announced budget advisors include Symquest Group chairman Pat Robins, former Democratic and Progressive state auditor candidate Doug Hoffer, former Burlington mayoral candidate Dan Smith — who ran as an independent in the last mayoral election — and former Progressive city councilor and state representative Carina Driscoll. Find the full list on the Weinberger campaign website.

As for where his budget team would find the money, Weinberger wouldn’t say. Pending the group’s review of the budget, he said he was "not going to speculate" on what departments might face cuts.

As to whether he might give any indication before the election, Weinberger said, "It will depend on what we find."

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