Council grapples with projected budget shortfall

City Council members were told for the second time in a year that revenues are many millions of dollars shorter than projected.

This time, it's a ten million dollar shortfall, the result of five million in extra overtime payments:  Four million in money owed to pensioners, and scattered thousands of dollars that didn't come in from the riverfront development corporation, the libraries and the phone company.

"There's an old saying with computers: Garbage in. Garbage out," said council member Tajuan Stout Mitchell.  "You put bad figures in, you're gonna get bad results."

Mitchell, the chair of the budget committee, was visibly upset that departments - specifically the fire department - were unable to reign in overtime spending.  She ultimately blamed the city administration for not watching more closely and again leaving them in the hot seat.

"You come to us because we're public servants, and we want answers too, but we're not the administrators," she said.

Mayor Herenton told said the problem stems from bad forecasting, but he says mistakes are normal.

"So what we'll have to do is have some austerity on spending," Herenton said, "and bring our budget in line."

Herenton's solution is a combination of saving money through attrition, further cuts in material and supplies, and a special amnesty program to collect unpaid fines.