Mayor Soglin says the operating budget he released Tuesday is "not sustainable for any extended period of time."
If the current fiscal situation with a recession and reduced state aid continues, the city will have to drastically scale back services. But Soglin opted to make do for now, rather than "dismantle the machine" that is city government.
Earlier this year, the city was looking at a $33 million gap in funding. Soglin says it was able to close that through a series of contract renegotiations, refinancing and service cuts. The proposed budget is $250.4 million, which is slightly higher than this year's $248 million. It includes a property tax hike of 3.24%.
In closing the gap, Soglin reneged on a promise the Common Council made last year to fund the Overture Center to the tune of $2 million a year. Soglin put the city's contribution at $1.35 million for 2012.
"I believe the private sector can make that up," Soglin says. "Whereas the private sector can't help us in other areas, such as snow and ice removal."
Tom Carto, Overture's executive director, says the arts center planned on a 5% reduction in the city subsidy, but what Soglin proposes is too much to make up. He said he would look to the council to restore the "legally binding commitment with the city."
"It's about a 33% cut," Carto says of the proposed funding. "That's much more than what [city departments] were asked to do."