It was the kind of city budget that the local newspaper described as full of “grim projections, hard truths,” one that seemingly reflects many cities these days. The Tacoma, Wash., city council in December approved a $397 million budget that includes far fewer employees, slashed services and higher taxes, according to The News Tribune.

“The word I would use to describe this budget is ‘painful,’” councilman Jake Fey said, according to the newspaper. The painful details are by now familiar to many local governments:

  • About 217 city government positions will be eliminated, including 70 layoffs.
  • The city’s only fire station in its port area will close and hours will be sliced at the main library.
  • Street repairs considered non-essential, including thousands of potholes, won’t get done.
  • Drivers will pay more for annual vehicle license fees and the city’s two nonprofit hospitals will be required to pay business taxes for the first time in decades.

Tacoma’s budget problems were compounded by a combination of bad luck and poor planning. On the planning front, new city manager T.C. Broadnax was faced with closing a $63 million projected gap left by the previous administration, plus $16 million that suddenly came up short in the city’s streets fund.

The bad luck included the city budget officer dying and the firing of the finance director. Then the interim finance director left to take another job. Broadnax, in an understatement, said, “It was a very challenging and difficult process.”