At a council meeting on Wednesday Morning, Missoula City Councilman Jesse Ramos floated the idea of cutting elements out of the city budget to help bring things into balance instead of pushing through Mayor John Engen’s proposed 3.86 percent tax increase.   Ramos explains…

“I was hoping to see around $2.3 million in cuts,” Ramos said. “That was just my baseline, my bare minimum amount of cuts. If there was any interest at all in cutting, I had a total of $6 million that I wanted to see cut just from two to three weeks of research on this. The main thing that I wanted to see happen, and I am going to put a referral in for, is I want each department head to come to the city council with a three percent cut, a five percent cut and a ten percent cut to their department expenses.”

Ramos’ proposal would have taken the ax to a diversity of expenditures including funds to the Mountain Line’s zero fare bus service, the Missoula Arts Council, and the Missoula Economic Partnership. He says he’s pushing to cut wants, not needs in the city budget and had two proposals that would impact city employees.

“Wants, I hate to say it, are pay increases for city employees,” Ramos said. “Those are not a requirement. Those are not a need. A lot of people go throughout life without getting a pay raise every single year. The big ticket item that I wanted to see put on the backs of the employees and not on the tax payers was the permissive mill levy that paid for the increase in premiums for the city government employees. I wanted them to have to pay for their increase in its entirety because there are a lot of tax payers out there who their individual premiums are going up 25, 35, 45 percent. That is more than enough that they have to deal with without having to pay for the premium increases of the city employees as well.”

In the end, Ramos was the only one that voted for the cuts, after some heated debate. Ramos says he expects the city council will approve the mayor’s proposed tax increases, but says he may try to propose budget cuts again.