Fun With Budgets: Rock Salt Positively Disembowling City Spending


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Mayor Jackson released 2015 city budget estimates today, forecasting more city spending than in each of the past eight years (at least). The $542 million in budgeted expenditures does not include costs of hosting the Republican National Convention or any costs associated with DOJ Consent Decree compliance.

City spokespeople identified four major reasons why spending will be so high: health care costs, wage increases (2 percent hike coming April 1), civil service testing, and the caviar price of road salt. 

Due to last year's cruel and unusual winter, the supply of road salt is way down. Cleveland managed to get salt for about $29 per ton from Morton Salt last year, from a statewide contract administered by ODOT. Via the city, that's an annual contract that generally expires in May and is renewed in September. This year, the best bid was from Cargill — they've got those mines and dunes visible for the Shoreway — at nearly double the cost ($51.22/ton). 

The City says that, on average, it uses about 68,000 tons of salt per winter (no word on last year's presumably increased usage), which computes to a whopping $3.5 million chunk of the budget, assuming they didn't buy extra as a precaution. 

For now, the money's there. Due to successful monitoring and lots of efficiency, says finance Director Sharon Dumas, Cleveland has nearly $50 million in the tank to roll over to 2015, plus an expected $496 million in revenues, so it's not like this year's spending will cripple the city or anything — NO LAYOFFS, is Jackson's priority — but those surplus reserves certainly won't be available next year. 

And it's worth noting that the gaudy development of downtown Cleveland doesn't benefit the city a whole heck of a lot, at least not financially. About 60 percent of the annual budget comes from income taxes, and most of the new workers in town at the hotels and restaurants and what have you are service-oriented, making far less than the out-of-town execs. 


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