Mayor Charlie Hales has offered some relatively good news to beleaguered city workers this week.

After last year's big budget cuts (and in light of this fall's sizable surplus), bureaus for the first time in several years won't be asked to contemplate any cuts when preparing their spending proposals for next summer.

But Hales declaration comes with an important catch.

Despite dropping major hints that the city will see substantial new revenues in next year's budget, Hales is pitching what he calls a "stabilization budget." Just because new money is coming in, the mayor is urging bureaus to "maintain fiscal discipline" and avoid asking for big sums of money that might restore lost jobs or beef up slashed programs.

Hales offered his thoughts in a letter (pdf) sent to bureaus on Thursday.


The two-page letter, obtained by the Mercury today, also hints at Hales' hopes for some major and minor structural changes in city government.


The tempered expectations show Hales walking an interesting line. Contract talks with one of the city's larger labor partners, the District Council of Trade Unions, have lasted far longer than both sides had hoped—foundering over proposals on subcontracting and seniority. Hales wants to send positive signals. But his office, and the council, also realize that good news might threaten some of the city's leverage at the bargaining table.

A fuller financial picture will emerge next month. And Hales wants council to talk about the budget, and the city itself, in a hearing in several weeks.