There is no doubt that we are barely inside the stadium, sitting in the upper deck in row triple z, of the discussion on the budget.  That is to say we lack the real details here.  Other than FY10 city budget and this limited article from the Grapevine Courier on the FY11 Budget problems, we have nothing to go on.  Even with that lack of detail, we are able to generate some thoughts and ideas that may in some way help.  Here are our five ideas to help the City of Grapevine’s budget issues.

1.  You are doing it wrong

Asking the department heads to go back to the drawing board and find other places to cut in their budget won’t work.  You’d have better luck asking them to go back and cut off a body part.  Their job is to protect their department, not cut it. 

If you are serious about making cuts we recommend one of two ways to do so.  Admittedly, neither of these ideas are easy.  The first is what we like to call the “neighbor budget cut.”  In this case, you have a department head look at another departments budget and suggest places to cut.  Yeah, we know, this isn’t fun nor is it easy.  It actually takes thought, hard work, and thick skin. 

The second idea (if you are serious about making cuts) is to have someone at the top, with real authority, take a hard look at the departmental budgets and make cuts where they are needed.  Yes, we know, this also takes a lot of work and actual direction from whomever is in charge.

2.  Your revenue projection looks a tad askew (to put it nicely)

According to the above mentioned Grapevine Courier article, “Next year, sales tax collections, the city’s largest source of income, are expected to remain flat…”  How can this be?  Did you add the Super Bowl just down the road to the FY11 model?  It seems like a pretty difficult assumption to miss.  But if you didn’t miss it, then how could sales tax revenue be flat?

There has to be an economic benefit to the City.  Grapevine is optimally placed right next to the airport and not far at all from Cowboys Stadium.  We should see a very nice uptick in sales tax revenue in January and February of 2011.  This is free revenue without doing anything at all.

3.  Reduce or even get rid of the Visitors Shuttle Bus Service

According to the FY10 Operating Budget, operating costs in FY10 were expected to be $543,173 for the Visitors Shuttle Bus Service.  From looking at the bus schedule online, it looks like you are running four buses a day, seven days a week.  You could cut this down to two buses per day or cut it down to just running on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and you save yourself $250,000 or more.

This looks like somebody’s pet project gone awry.  Yes, there are probably hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in those buses, but those are sunk costs.  We are talking about fixing next years budget, not fixing costs that are long gone.  It is not easy, but pet projects that add little value should be the first to go.

4.  Consider selling some ad space on your website

You get over 1 million visitors a year to your website.  That is worth something.  It is possibly enough to save a position or two at the Convention and Visitors Bureau office.  And another question, why are you cutting positions at the Convention and Visitors Bureau less than six months before the Super Bowl?

5.  You could do better on your festival live music choices

I imagine that getting better bands would cost more up front.  But you have to spend money sometimes to make money.  I would guess you could get Robert Earl Keen to pay a visit to Grapevine for $30,000 or less.  He’d pay for himself in the additional beer sales you would generate.

These are five free ideas.  Given the lack of real detail we have about the FY11 plan, who knows if they are any good.  At worst, maybe they generate a little thought and discussion.  At best, maybe a light bulb goes off down at the budget office in Grapevine.

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