The city message board may have broken another story as the regular contributors were busy Thursday criticizing an 18-page document written by Mayor Dayton King and his executive assistant Jason Fazzio, and apparently leaked by a city official.
Though the comments on the message board portray the document as a secret local version of the Pentagon Papers, King said it is a working paper he and Fazzio compiled in their effort to identify about $4 million worth of financial solutions to keep the city afloat.
King said he distributed the document about a week ago to council members and department heads in an attempt to get what he termed feedback. Many of the ideas, including a per-bag fee for garbage and an apartment registration fee for landlords, have already been presented publicly.
And while most of the information is not sensitive and would have been disclosed, anyway, King said there were some personnel matters in the document that should have been kept confidential and discussed in executive session.
Instead of waiting until budget deliberations, when the council’s only option for closing a projected $1.3 million gap might be raising taxes or cutting more staff, King said he and Fazzio evaluated some staff consolidation ideas.
With a large budget gap coming despite staff cuts in previous years, King said, “we can’t keep doping things they way we’ve always done them.”
He said that when he distributed the paper, he expected some criticism. If the response was, “Mayor, you’re crazy,” he explained, then perhaps the criticism might be followed by some better suggestions from the council or department heads.
“We can’t go into October with the same old approach — slashing positions,” King said.
King said he is still optimistic the council will eventually approve some form of the garbage bag fee, which he said could generate as much as $750,000 a year.
The landlord fee, vigorously opposed at the originally proposed $120 per unit, might be more acceptable at $40 per unit, King said; even $40 per unit would generate about $120,000 a year.
Another idea in the paper, compelling the Water Department to share with the city the extra water fees charged in the town of Johnstown, is possibly headed to referendum in November. King said the water measure would generate about $140,000 a year.
He said all the proposals add up to significant new revenue for a city badly in need of it.
Well-known local watchdog Dorothy Getman has a copy of the document, but she said Thursday she is still reviewing it. She declined to comment on the portion she did read. Though the message board entries are critical of the paper and Fazzio, he described the document as a sincere effort to find ways to shift taxes off the backs of the property owners.
Councilwoman Robin Wentworth, D-1st Ward, said she was surprised to discover that a city official leaked the document. But she also said she is not impressed with its contents. She said considerable effort was involved in the project and it might have been better applied to one of the city’s current problems.
The document was titled “speculative,” Wentworth said.