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Letters, May 15

Jensen’s budget math is off

In his guest guest opinion in Sunday’s paper, Ashland City Councilor Stephen Jensen incorrectly states that the city government is “operating with 23 percent fewer staff (members) than two years ago.”

His math is way off. The City pro tem manager’s proposed two-year budget currently before the Citizens Budget Committee provides for a city staff of 245.32 full-time equivalent employees. The personnel budget is $74.5 million, not including any costs of new contracts with five city unions in the next 14 months.

While the number of city workers is proposed to drop by 14 positions (5% by my calculation), most of which are currently unfilled, the amount budgeted for salaries and benefits actually goes UP by $3 million over the two years of the budget. We are paying more for fewer workers.

Ashland city government is facing a deficit that the Budget Committee and the City Council can no longer ignore. And, providing Ashlanders with incorrect information does not help.

I’m appealing to Councilor Jensen to join with those of us citizen members of the Budget Committee who are proposing ways to reduce city personnel costs during deliberations. He can be assured that not even we budget hawks are calling for a 23% cut in city staff.

David Runkel


Stephen Jensen responds

Mr. Runkel is correct if one is analyzing the issue from a strict budget line-item perspective. I was offering a broader perspective, so my number may be inexact but it is generally supported by our finance director.

My calculation tried to take into account all the layoffs, the furloughs, the shortened hours, the unfilled positions, the no summer hires, the police cadets not hired, the COVID sick leaves, and the COVID stay-at-home mom leaves. This number is then compared to the pre-COVID city of Ashland that would be fully staffed across the entire employment base of city operations including positions we cannot fill (electric lineman).

The overarching point I make, and which still holds true, is that we are operating bare-bones now and already we have seen levels of service drop. Any further reductions will continue this decline.

Citizens had better be prepared for a serious alteration in the fabric and character of this town if those who see only “cuts” as the way forward prevail. Thanks for proctoring this conversation.

Stephen Jensen

Ashland city councilor